As mentioned in the last chapter, everyone plays offense when your team has the ball, and everyone plays defense when you don't. But some positions are generally considered more defensive than others, which is why they are called defenders. Like basketball, defense in soccer can be either man-to-man or zone.
If you're playing man-to-man defense, you'll want to pick a player from the other team and stay with her. This is called marking up. If your player has the ball, then you want to mark her tightly. If you need to allow your teammates a chance to get into position, then you contain your player, but if you feel you have lots of backup, you move in tighter and challenge her. Force her to look down at the ball, so she can't see her teammates. Make sure you keep your body between the opponent and the goal.
If your player doesn't have the ball, then you need to stay with her but not as tightly. You want to deny her the ball, but you also need to be in a position to help out your teammates if someone breaks free. The farther away you are from the ball, the farther you can be from the player you're marking.
WORDS to KNOW
Marking up: Another term for man-to-man defense. That means you cover a player rather than an area, staying with them no matter where they go.
Zone defense: Covering an area rather than a person. You pick up the player who goes into that area.
Stopper: This player is the first line of defense, but can also be a significant force on offense. It works best if this player is a loudmouth, take-charge person.
Sweeper: This is the cleanup player (which is why the name is so appropriate). She's the last line of defense before the keeper.
To practice working with another defender, you might want to tr y this exercise for four players. Have two players stand on a line (the defenders) and two across from them about 30 feet away (the attackers). The defend -ers start with the ball and pass it to the attackers. The at tackers then tr y to get the ball back over the line. Meanwhile, the defenders move for ward, working together. One of them should call “Ball” and move in close to force the player with the ball to make a move. The other defender stays back with an eye on the To open attacker, but he is also looking to pick up the one with the ball if he happens to dribble around the first defender. If the defenders get the ball away, they get a point. If the attackers get it over the line, they get a point. Play up to 10 and then switch roles.
Sometimes coaches prefer to have a zone defense. In this case the players are covering an area, not a person. The defender on the left side covers the left side, the defender in the middle takes the middle, the defender on the right side takes the right side, etc.
Most coaches these days have a zone formation with four defenders. The player nearest the ball moves in to directly confront the attacker. The next closest player becomes the backup in case the defender gets beaten. He should move in toward the action but not get so close that he interferes. The third and fourth players are farther off the ball, so they can see the whole field and where the opponents might be bringing in their attack, but they are shifting as well. It's as if the defense is setting up wall after wall after wall for the attackers to go through.
If you're playing zone, then you need to make sure you communicate well. One person needs to move forward and confront the player with the ball. Usually it's the person defending that zone. He should yell “Ball!” and make his move. Then the rest of the defenders know that they are responsible for covering his area, and they shift accordingly. If the ball is passed into another zone, then somebody else picks up the dribbler and the first defender slips back into zone mode. It takes a lot of teamwork, but it can be a very effective defense.
Guidelines for Both
There are two sweeper and stopper — that have specific jobs all on their Defensive positions own. Not every team uses these two positions, but many do, whether they play man-to-man or zone.
The stopper is the first line of defense. If you're a stopper it means that your coach thinks you're very aggressive and can be tough on the opponents. If you're playing man-to-man defense, this person usually marks up with the striker from the other team. If you're playing zone, the stopper will usually be the first one to confront any ball coming toward your half of the field.
The sweeper is the last line of defense. She should be very fast and willing to move all over. She's the cleanup player, getting balls if they should get through the rest of the defense. Having a sweeper to back up the defense allows the defenders to be a little more aggressive on offense.
Remember, all 11 players are part of both the attack and the defense. Even if the ball is far away from your goal, you'll still have a job to do as a defender. Remember the offsides rule? The other team can't keep an attacker in your half of the field if there are no defenders there. So move on up! Push the opponents back to their goal. If your team is attacking their goal, then all your defenders should at least be at the midfield line.