Today we unpack the player and team development principles embedded in a youth competitive (U3-U18) flank attack soccer drill embedded in an end of practice scrimmage. All drills in our Youth Competitive book are assembled into practice plans to ensure that each practice offers the proper balance between the four pillars of soccer:
Technical Skills – Tactics – Physical Fitness – Mental Fitness
It is this balance, practiced over a season, that has led the tens of thousands of coaches who own our books to improve the performance and social environment of their teams.
Youth Competitive Soccer Drill
Download the drill here: Youth Competitive Flank Attack Scrimmage
From our book: Youth Competitive (U13 – U18)
Soccer Drill Profile:
The profile indicates that this is a fairly balanced soccer drill involving strong elements of tactics, physical fitness, and mental training.
This a full field 7 v. 7 practice game. Near each corner flag a 10m x 10m square is marked into which the ball is passed into the run of an attacking player. The attacker cannot be challenged and gets a free cross. Upon change of possession (goal, save, out-of-bounds) the previously defending team must now cross the center line and then attempt to play a pass into ANY of the four corner squares.
Passing, crossing, finishing and goalkeeping are the key skills developed in this drill. Defenders will train closing down passing options and intercepting passes. This is not a 1 v. 1 drill employing moves to beat defenders.
The team in possession is encouraged to play fairly short one/two touch passes. Passes have to be accurate and are either played to feet or into space.
Passes into the square can be long and high, diagonal or down the line, or they could be a last short pass after combination plays.
Within the grid ball receiving and control are essential to allow quick movement of the ball.
The goalkeeper will have excellent opportunities to come off the line to intercept crosses, to come off the line and cut the angle of the shot, or to stay in net and make reaction saves.
The attackers running into the box train one time shots/headers, timing of run, or one touch control of the ball followed by a second touch shot.
There are several key tactical elements in this soccer drill.
- the first is to play a quality pass into one of the squares allowing the “incoming player” are very quick one or two touch cross into the danger area. Therefore the pass should be into the run of the player.
- the second is a quality cross and importantly, proper runs of attackers into the box to get into a position to finish. The flight of the cross must be judged and the run timed to strike/head the ball with maximum accuracy and power. Likewise defenders have to be in position to prevent a strike.
- the third is the quick transition after gaining possession to get the entire team across center into the other half. At that point the team must recognize which of the four corner squares can be reached quickest and allowing the defense the least amount of time to set up to defend the cross. A key coaching point is to make the team aware that once they cross center there should be space behind them in the half they just left, assuming the defenders came along with them. That indicates an opportunity for a quick turn around and attack of the space just vacated.
As a transition drill, as soon as the defending team gains possession they become the attackers. They have to switch mental gears immediately to set up a scoring play in the box. Likewise the attackers who lost possession must now transition to blocking/intercepting passes and defend.
When done correctly both teams will be in constant motion with frequent sprints to get across center to start a new attack after change of possession. This should be excellent anaerobic/physical speed training.
There must be communication (verbal or non verbal) to ensure that only one player runs into a square for a cross. This soccer drill involves all Seven Speeds Of Soccer
The attacking players must perceive a path with sufficient space to pass safely into a square. Defenders need to perceive the same spaces so that they can close them. All players need to perceive a change of possession so that they can switch roles from attacking to defending and vice versa.
The player in possession must anticipate a team-mate’s run into a square to make the final pass before the cross. Players without the ball must anticipate which square a ball might be passed into and make the run.
All attackers must anticipate the cross and time their run to meet the ball in the danger area.
The goalkeeper needs to anticipate the cross.
The defenders need to anticipate every pass so they can react and intercept.
The attacker with the ball needs to decide if they should pass to a team mate within the grid or pass into a square. They also need to decide if they should continue the direction of the current attack or make a quick turn and attack the goal in the opposite half (behind them). The attackers without the ball need to decide which one breaks into a square. Once in the square the attacker decides whether the cross is high/low, near post/far post or around penalty spot. The goalkeeper decides whether or not to come off the line to intercept the cross.
The key players who need to react are the one going into the square for the cross and the goalkeeper. They have been anticipating the play and made a decision to act, and in the case of the attacker communicated that decision to team mates. They need to react to the actual pass and time their runs accordingly.
Movement With Ball
Given this is a one/two touch drill there isn’t much dribbling, 1 v. 1 or other movement of players with the ball. The movement that is critical is setting up a good second touch (shot, header, pass) with an excellent first touch.
Movement Without Ball
This is a critical element of this drill. Attackers in the grid must move into space to receive a pass and also to have an option to pass into the square with their next touch. Thus the recognition of space and anticipation of defenders’ positions are important. It is quite acceptable for attacking players to run into more than one square, giving the player with the ball options. If they make a run and the ball is not played to them, then they must adjust to join play in the grid or to go in for the cross. Finally, the attacker wanting to break into the square must sprint to the anticipated point of contact with the ball.
This soccer drill is all about game action speed to set up and finish scoring chances.
This soccer drill, as is the case with all of our over 500 soccer drills, has coaching points and progression suggestions.
In addition to those you can vary the numbers of attackers in the grid using up all available players evenly in two teams. You can also create unbalanced teams, playing 8 v 6 or 10 v 6 to increase scoring success, test defenders, etc.
Consider grouping players into functional units, i.e. defenders + defensive midfielders vs, attacking midfielders and strikers.
If the attackers are executing well, you can challenge them by allowing defenders to follow them into the square.
The perception of the opportunity to turn and attack the half the team in possession just left may be weak. Stop the drill a few times initially and point out where the space and opportunity was if the team missed it.