How to Play Defense in Soccer – 5 Ways to Become a Great Defender

Defenders are the backbone of a teams makeup. Here are five things to keep in mind when defending.

Commit Only When You’re SureThe most disastrous decision you can make is to commit yourself to a challenge before either you’re certain you can win the ball or you have support behind you. The best attackers fancy themselves as bullfighters, and the ball is their red cape. In a one-on-one situation, they’re trying to draw you in and then evade your charge at the last minute. You have to be smarter than the bull. Don’t be overaggressive and react rather than anticipate.

Stay On Your Toes

When you’re watching pundits fuss over the particulars of a goal, one phrase that always seems to pop up in criticism of the defender is that he or she was caught “flat-footed.” This is problematic for defenders because a flat-footed defender takes longer to react; precious tenths of a second that make the difference between nicking the ball off an attacker’s foot and watching him or her blow by you and bearing down on your hapless keeper. By putting all of your weight on your toes, you can react in time with an attacker’s movement and stay in front of them, blocking their path to goal.

Force Your Attacker Toward Support

As much as we’d love to fancy ourselves the John Terry of our 25th tier rec league, able to take on all attackers and deftly deflate their movements in the final third with our combination of quick wits and technical prowess, the truth is that it’s never an ideal position to be stranded on an island against your opposing number. Try to shade your marker toward other defenders; if you have support to your left, try to focus your efforts on taking away the channel just to the right of you. If you can funnel a dribbling player toward another defender, odds are that one of you can take the ball off their foot.

The Closer To Goal, The Tighter Your Marking

It may seem obvious, but it’s so crucial that it deserves emphasis anyway. If you’re marking somebody at the halfway line, you shouldn’t necessarily be in your opposing number’s back pocket. But if you’re inside of your own penalty area, you should be draped all over your opposition like a mink coat (within the rules of the game, obviously). If your opposing marker is in the position to take a shot, your number one priority should be to ensure that they do not have the requisite space to take that shot.

Work Rate Work Rate Work Rate

This is perhaps the most important thing to have as a defender; pure tenacity. If you suffer the ignominy of being beaten, your first action should be to immediately track back to goal. Never give up on the play until you have to pick the ball out of the back of the net. If you hustle back, you never know what opportunity may present itself.

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