Posted on Leave a comment

Soccer Drill Unpacked – Transition Play #1

This article presents a soccer drill from one of our soccer practice books and unpacks the player and team development principles embedded in the drill. All drills in each of our books 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.

We will give you a download link to the soccer drill PDF page, a link to the book that contains the drill, and then explain the four pillars of soccer using a soccer drill player development profile chart.

Competitive Pro Soccer Drill

Download the drill here: Competitive Pro Transition Drill #1

From our book: Competitive Pro – Fast Break

Soccer Drill Profile:


The profile indicates that the emphasis of this soccer drill is on tactics,mental training and physical fitness.

Set Up:

Three groups of four are on a field twice the size of the penalty box, playing a 4 v 4 small sided game. One team is on the attack, one defends a goal, and the third is ready to defend the opposite goal.

Possession changes to the defending team if they win the ball (including goalkeeper) or the ball goes out of play. Plenty of balls should be distributed around the field for quick restarts. Restarts from the sideline are quick throw ins. If the ball goes out of bounds over the goal line the keeper rolls or throws the ball in quickly. No goal kicks.

The off-side rule does not apply.

The goal is to transition from defense to attack as quickly as possible once possession of the ball is obtained. At the same time getting ready quickly to defend after losing possession is critical.

Technical Skills:

Since this drill is geared towards competitive or professional teams it is assumed that the players possess all skills required to execute the drill. Two touch passing (i.e. touch 1 receiving – turning – touch 2 passing), ball receiving, shooting, etc. will be required and reinforced at high speeds. The small size of the field adds complexity and challenges ball control abilities. This drill is not intended to teach or train basic skills.


Due to the small field this soccer drill offers many opportunities to practice transitioning from defense to offense and vice versa. Also, a shot on goal is possible from virtually anywhere on the field.

Attacking Team:

Playing a possession game to set up the perfect scoring chance near the goal is not desirable. Rather, after gaining possession, the following plays should occur with no more than three passes/plays. This adds tremendous speed to this exercise and reduces the idle time for the third team waiting on the opposite goal line :

  1. Quick passes to a player moving into position with a direct path for a shot on target.
  2. A quick pass to a player running down a wing followed by a one touch cross to the front of the goal. The goal will be attacked by ALL three remaining players.
  3. A give and go to set up a shot or a cross.
  4. A quick overlapping run down the wing followed by a quick cross.

There is no need to switch the point of attack or pass backwards. The space is too limited for these plays and is designed to force quick ball movement.

The attack is over when the defending team gains possession, i.e. they win the ball, the keeper saves it, or it goes out of bounds. The attacking team must immediately sprint off the field and position themselves on the goal line of the goal they just attacked. They need to realize that the team that defended them now attacks the opposite goal and they must not interfere with their transition.

Defending Team

The defending team springs into action from their own goal line as soon as the the team that defended the opposite goal gains possession and attacks. Defenders need to sprint off the goal line and put pressure on the attackers quickly. Remember that the attackers are trying to get to a clear shot on goal with two or three passes. If the defenders are not pressuring quickly then there will be easy shooting opportunities for the attackers.

Basic defending tactics apply. One defender has to challenge the player with the ball while a second defender provides cover, positioned behind the challenger and angled towards the goal. The other two defenders cover the other three attackers in space and close down passing lanes. Once the ball is passed they try to intercept it or at least put pressure on the receiver. As a variation the coach can ask teams to switch between zonal defending and man marking.


The tricky part of this drill occurs when possession changes. The attacking team that lost possession must retreat to the goal line they just attacked. The team that gained possession must quickly change mindset and switch to attack mode, the team that is waiting on the goal line must sprint out. There should only be a couple of seconds when all three groups are on the field. The team getting off the field should leave the field at the closest exit point and sprint around the outside to the goal line they will defend. Ideally by the time they get there they will be required to break out and pressure the attackers. It might be a bit chaotic at the beginning but usually teams figure out the rhythm of the drill and adjust.

Fitness Training:

This drill has a high component of anaerobic training. Two out of the three teams will have short to medium distance sprints (the team leaving the field and the defending team). The team in possession is also moving constantly but not everyone is sprinting at the same time. This is likely the only period for recovery since they need to sprint off the field and shortly thereafter off the goal line to challenge. If the drill flows well then players will be breathing hard. The coach can stop play every five minutes to give quick feedback and corrections thus providing some additional recovery times. It is up to the coach to determine the speed of the drill and the work/rest ratio.

Mental Fitness:

By the very nature of this soccer drill all seven speeds of soccer come into play.


The team waiting on the goal line must perceive a change of possession at the other end of the field. The sooner they do, the sooner they will be able to pressure the attackers. The defending team must perceive when one of their players wins the ball or when the ball goes out of bounds so they can attack quickly (including restart plays). The attacking team must perceive when they lose possession so they can get off the field quickly.


The attacking players without the ball must anticipate passes to their feet or into space. The defenders must anticipate the same plays and get ready to react. The team waiting to defend anticipates the exact moment they can leave their positions and challenge.

Decision Making

The obvious but not so simple decisions are for all twelve players to determine when to switch roles – attackers get off the field, defenders to start an attack, and the waiting team to defend. Then regular decision making kicks in. Do I play one or two touches? To whom do I pass? Do I pass to feet or into space (into a run)? Do I shoot (path to goal is available)? Who challenges the ball? Who provides cover? Where do the other defenders position themselves? Who takes the restart play? And so on.


Once the decision is made by each and every player they need to react to the actual play that happens. For example an attacker might decide to run down the left wing to receive a pass and cross it. In actual fact the play goes down the opposite wing. The left “winger” now needs to react and curl in towards the net to be able to receive the cross from the other side.

Movement Without Ball

This is critical since the field is small. Attackers can be closed down fairly quickly and hence they must move constantly into open space. For example if an attacker wants to receive the ball down a wing they might first “check in” (this is a fake run) towards the center drawing defenders with them. This might open up space on the wing into which the ball is played and the player checking towards the middle now “checks out” towards the side, receives the ball and crosses it in.

Movement With Ball

These will be very quick and short lived. Most of it should be two touch soccer. Only by exception would there be an occasion to play a 1 v 1, most likely to get by the last defender in the way of a shot or a cross.

Game Action

The entire drill is at game action speed or faster. There won’t even be much time for communication, players will mostly work off visual cues and their own perceptions.

Coaching Tips:

This soccer drill, as is the case with all of our over 500 soccer drills, has coaching points and progression suggestions. The coach might want to think about how to put together the teams. If there are more than 14 players available (12 plus 2 goalies) run the drills on two separate fields, but never less than three players on a team and never more than six. If the math works out to more than four players per team then increase the size of the field. Or consider running the drill as is with 14 players and have additional players working a different drill and rotate them in every five minutes. This might provide another opportunity for resting players.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.