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Coaches Blog

Sam's Blog is a bi-weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Coaching Director for US Youth Soccer.


Playing Down a Player

Sam Snow

“I’m coaching youth soccer. The league has given me a team with one less player than the rest. Subs will be impossible, what strategy in game time do you recommend? I’ve tried to get this fixed but they’re not going to give me another player. Is there a certain formation that best suits a team when they’re field a player down?”

If a team is playing down a player or two it is generally easier then to play with fewer forwards in the team formation. Visually and physically it is a little easier to go forward from the back than the opposite. Play with a full complement of defenders, try to do the same in the midfield line of the team and then play with only one or two forwards.

The team will need to drop off most of the time when defending to give good cover in its own half of the field. The team may need to concede pressure on the ball in the opponents’ half of the field when defending.

When on the attack, the team will need to move the ball quickly, so lots of one and two touch passing. If most passes are played to each other’s feet as opposed to open space then the physical demand on the players is manageable. If too many passes are made into open space, thus requiring lots of running to catch the ball, the team will be exhausted sooner rather than later.

The coach of a youth team that is playing down must be mindful of the health of the players. Be sure they get lots of water and if needed even play down further in order to take a player off now and then for a rest. The players’ safety and health is more important than the match outcome.



Jerome Hickey in Troy, MI said: My suggestion would be to talk it over with the opposing coach before the game and have him play with the same number of players as you. If they are in it for the good of the players at the rec level, it should not be a problem.
13 May 2016 at 8:09 PM
Jon in West Chester, PA said: Thanks for responding! I'll definitely utilize this advice. I've already spoken to the league about playing down a player so that we can give the players rest. Water breaks and rest are at the fore front of my mind during games. Luckily I have an assistant coach to help monitor who needs to come out next. The fewer forwards idea makes sense. We've been working on quick decision making with 1-2 touch passing in practice, and they're starting to get some fluidity. I have three speedy forwards and a defender who is just as fast. It's taken 2 games to figure out exactly where they fit, but I am still rotating everyone to other positions so that they all get that experience. I can say they are having a great time and are starting to develop chemistry and comradery. My goal was to make this a fun and enjoyable experience for my players. It's supposed to be just that, especially at the Recreational Level. I'd like to give you updates on how the season is going. Thank you again on responding and sharing advice and strategy! -Jon
27 April 2016 at 5:06 AM

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