I hear reporters talk about passes into lanes and channels. I can’t figure out exactly what that means. can you help?
It can be confusing, particularly since different reporters, AND SOCCER COACHES, mean different things when they say that, or they interchange the terms to mean the same thing. I personally think it is over-complicating some relatively simple concepts. Below are two diagrams attempting to explain what people really mean.
Passing lanes used to be called “gaps between defenders”. It is a space available for a ball to be passed through, typically on the ground. The “gap” must be wide enough so that no defender can extend the leg to cut off the pass. Or the passing distance must be short enough and the pass hard enough such that defenders don’t have time to react. The purpose is to play a ball into space behind the defense for another attacker to run unto. If it’s inside the penalty box it will set up a great scoring opportunity. Anywhere else in the field it will open up space and keep forward progression moving.
What reporters mean when they say that a passing lane was missed is that for an instance the gap was there and the second attacker was ready to run in behind the defenders, or actually ran into that space. The player with the ball didn’t recognize the opportunity and missed the pass into the lane.
In our practice books we have a few drills showing how to create “lanes” or “gaps” and then pass the ball through them.
A channel is most commonly referred to as the space between the most outside defender and the side line. It used to be called playing the ball down the side or the wing. From a passing technical perspective the difference between passing between two defenders or one defender and the side line is that the side line acts as a passive defender. It restricts the space available, but unlike a person, it cannot move to intercept the ball.
In a previous post, Switching Play, I discussed the importance of attacking down the sides/wings/flanks to generate crosses and scoring opportunities.
If the situation is as in the above diagram, and the space down the side is available, a pass should follow to set the runner free and generate the cross into the penalty box. A pass on the ground will be easier to control for the receiving player, but there must be enough space to play the ball through. A ball over the top wouldn’t necessarily be called a pass into the “channel.
It is easy to see how channel and lane can be used interchangeably. What matters is the concept of having space for a pass between defenders, or space for a pass between the most outside defender and the side line. Think of both as space or gaps when you listen to the reporters and you will recognize what they mean.