Improve soccer performance, confidence on the ball and increase overall skill

Small Ball Training – Developing Soccer Skills

Small Ball: Skills Development ~ Windows 3 & 4

Executing the fundamentals of passing & receiving under control with an idea of the next move is critical to a successful passing game.  Emphasizing good passing & receiving discipline in practice is essential to helping players develop these skills and to compete at higher levels.


Developing the passing game in increments is the best way to create solid fundamentals. Emphasize good technique, well placed and well paced balls that lead a player away from pressure or into an opportune space that enable a good trap under pressure or on the run.


Below is an exercise that gives players an opportunity to execute the necessary skills in traffic with no pressure. We like to design exercises that offer large quantities of quality touches in our sessions.


Set up: Build a grid large enough to accommodate the players involved.  For 16 players a 30 yard x 30 yard grid might be appropriate.

Using cones create windows 8 – 10 yards wide along each sideline to accommodate half the players. Example; 16/2 = 8 windows, so 2 windows on each sideline. Half the players are stationed in the windows, the other half  work inside the grid.  


Phase 1: Each player inside the grid needs a ball. Players inside the grid pass their ball to a player in a window and follow their pass to receive the ball back , trap, turn and find a new window. Players must make sure not to pass to a window that already has or is receiving a ball, this is equal to making a pass to a player that is marked = turnover. If the window the passer chooses is engaged, simply look for another window.  Maybe execute a move to buy time or change direction… pass, follow, receive repeat..

Rotate players from grid to windows every 2 to 3 minutes to keep work rate high. Emphasize crisp technically sound passes, tight traps, fluid and tight turns with the ball and most of all good communication. Passers will need to call names of window players as windows will be scanning the grid for balls coming their way. Players in the grid should work on tight turns with the ball under control ready to avoid traffic or a would be tackler etc.         

Penalty options; if a ball leaves the grid due to an errant pass or a missed trap then player(s) involved does push ups.


Phase 2: Players in the window start with the ball. Players in the grid show to a window to receive a pass and play the ball back first touch. This is a simple drill which provides players an opportunity to work on many aspects of passing and receiving. The grid is crowded so the player receiving the ball needs to communicate,  show to a good space (or channel or alley) and signal which side of the body he/she wants the ball played to and then play a well paced first time pass back to the window. The window player needs to have their head up looking for players showing to receive a pass and then play a well paced ball to the runner away from pressure (or crowds) that the runner can play back on first touch.

Next phase of this is to require players in the grid to trap and execute a move before passing the ball back.


Phase 3; Players work in pairs.  A team of 16 would have 8 pairs. Three pairs occupy the windows while the other 5 pairs work in the grid.

A)    Pairs working in the grid have a ball. Work on 3rd man. Player 1 (P1) plays ball to a window Player 2 (P2) shows to receive the ball from the window, traps and passes to a different window and P1 shows to receive the ball from the window. Repeat sequence continually for 2 minutes. Communication is key as the 3rd man must make it clear he/she wants the ball and shows to a good space for the window. As players begin to understand the drill place a 1 touch restriction on the window and 2 touch on runners to speed up play and force quicker decision making.

B)    Same drill except add a mandatory give and go (or wall pass) to the mix for players in the grid. The sequence should be; P1 passes to window, window passes to P2, P2 passes to P1, P1 passes back to P2, P2 passes to window, window passes to P1….. Again, as players begin to understand and execute with efficiency place 1 and 2 touch restrictions to speed up play and decision making.


Phase 4; Players work in pairs. A team of 16 = 8 pairs. Three pairs in the windows, 5 pairs working the grid.  Ideally, if you have odd numbers or odd pairs set up more players in the windows that there are pairs working in the grid.

A)    Each player in a window needs a ball. In the grid P1 & P2 will play against each other. Start with P1 as offense and P2 as defense. P1 shows to a window to receive a ball and plays it back with 1 or two touches. P2 tries to deny pass from window to P1. The offensive player will have an advantage because they can show to any window that has a ball and is ready to play. The downside is that the window may be playing the ball to another offender or may not see the runner checking to him/her. The art of this drill is to shake the defender to create 2 to 3  yards of separation when the pass is made, then the offender must hold off the aggressive defender and play the ball back to the window. Defense works on tight aggressive marking and denial. At first you may want to have the defender work to just stay close enough to bump the player receiving the ball so the offender gets used to pressure and contact when receiving and handling a pass. Work for 1-2 minutes and then switch. This is an exhausting exercise.

B)     Players in the grid have the ball. 1 ball per pair. The game is keep-away. Players are allowed and encouraged to use the windows. Place 2 touch restrictions on windows (eventually moving to 1 touch).  It is crowded and chaotic in the grid. Players will need to shield the ball and/or dribble, executing moves to elude their defender while trying to find a window to pass to. Then they must find space to receive the ball back. Sometimes it is a simple check run back to the ball, sometimes a wall pass, sometime the window will need to lead the player to an open space if the defender is cheating or anticipating something simple. Defender is allowed to attack the window, intercept passes, tackle etc. Play strict boundaries. Run for 1-2 minutes and switch.


Great warm up drills. Works on the fundamental required passing skills in an interactive environment

Small Ball Training; First Touch

First touch; receiving and/or trapping a ball while in play.  First touch is important in controlling a ball whether a player is receiving a pass, gathering a loose ball or playing a long ball via free kick, goal kick or goalie punt.  Developing a good, or great, first touch will buy time on the ball, help speed up play and allow players time to make better decisions on the ball. All this leads to better possessions for both individual and team play


A great way to develop a first touch while training individually is by juggling.


Training with a brasilian futebol will enhance touch and speed progress. 


First, it is important to become a proficient juggler. Being able to juggle a ball 20 to 30 times on your laces without losing control or letting the ball touch the ground it a good start. More is better, but no need to go beyond 100 touches without the ball touching the ground.  It is more about what you can do with those touches than the amount.


Once you are proficient a good drill is to knock the ball high into the air and settle it in your sweet spot with a soft touch.  We call this Three touch and a knock: Juggle the ball three times and then kick it (knock it) 10 to 15 feet in the air, control the ball with the first touch, a soft touch, trying to keep the ball below your waist and within reach so the next touch  sets up the next knock.

The idea is to use one to two touches after settling the high ball with the first soft touch, or trap, to adjust and compose yourself. Then knock the ball 10 to 15 feet in the air again. Repeat this process. Focus on controlling the ball with your first touch after you have “knocked” it into the air,. A good first touch is essential if you are to maintain control and set up the knock again. A good first touch leads to a chance for a second good touch etc. Without a good first touch usually there is no second touch.


To start with it is a good idea to allow for the ball to bounce. Just try to keep the ball alive and maintain some semblance of control. We even encourage using the thigh trap for the first touch just to get a feel for the drill, find a rhythm and develop confidence. We encourage success oriented drills so take as many touches as needed, use the bounce to your benefit and work on progressing. It might take 5 touches to get control and then knock the ball high. Use them and then progress to a four touch rotation, then a three touch rotation (Knock -control- touch – knock, repeat..) and then a two touch (knock-control-knock, repeat). This exercise will help to develop “first touch”.


NCAA D1 Men’s Soccer: Big weekend

(1) UCLA vs Connecticut

(2) Washington vs Stanford

(3) Notre Dame vs (14 Wake Forest

(4) Cal vs Coastal Carolina


Developing the passing game

Barcelona has a flair that just about every
team envies. What we love about their game is their ability to possess and
attack. As well as having a relentless defense their style of soccer is in
essence short, sharp and very accurate passing.

They support the ball with several options and know when to take risk.

It’s a premise that provides a fantastic foundation on which to build any tactical plan.

Incorporating passing games into sessions
is a good way to teach possession. Players become adept at passing the ball
using one or two-touch play. The more touches a players gets during a session
the more comfortable they will become on the ball and with their passing. It is
best to design games and drills that require quick passes and movement off the
ball done with purpose and precision.

It is also a good way to coach first touch
and control. A quality first touch will give a player more time and space with
the ball leading to a better decision upon release of the ball and therefore a
better and more thoughtful pass. Consistent coaching a coaxing of quality first
touches will translate into a high level passing techniques that become second
nature to them.

Simple passing sessions are invaluable in
so many ways. Not only do they enhance technical skills, but by adding
variables such as one or two-touch or changes in passing distance, players have
to use anticipation and reactions rather than simple “eye to ball”

This means that when the mechanics are
slowed down in a match, players will be able to operate with increased natural
accuracy, touch and weight.

This is an exercise that can be played with
any age group – just change the distances to suit your players.

How to set it up:

  • Place three cones in a straight line, with a gap of eight yards
    between each – depending on the skill level of your players.
  • Three players – A, B and C – position themselves, one on each cone
    in succession or alphabetical order
  • Using two-touch – with quick passing and a lively tempo – player A
    passes short to B who touches balls to the side, for A to run on to, and pass to C.  B
    runs to where A started.
  • C controls and passes longer to player B, who is now at the far
  • Play for three minutes, then move the cones in by a yard, and
  • Keep reducing the distance between the cones every three minutes
    until they are two yards apart. The play here should be fast and players must
    control and pass quickly.
  • Progress the drill to one-touch starting at the 8 yard distance
    and moving in a yard every 3 minutes.  Players
    must be focused, control is vital, as is direction of the pass and anticipation
    of receiving a pass.
  • Also experiment with using different distances between cones in
    the same line. For instance, make A to B eight yards, and B to C four yards.
    This gives a greater variety of distances for your players to be passing
    through, and more to think about. But remember the focus should be on quick
    passing and one or two-touch play.
  • Create an area 12 yards long by eight yards wide.
  • Keep players in groups of three and play 2v1, in which the two
    players are attackers and the lone player is a defender.

Putting it into

Developing the

Starting at the top end, get the attackers
to try to pass their way down the pitch without the defender gaining possession
of the ball. Begin so that the defender cannot tackle, before progressing into
opposed play

Then move on to 3 v 2. Here we like to play
keep-away in a grid 20 yards by 10 yards. This forces players to use
combinations to get out of trouble and escape into open space. As an added
incentive to the defenders, if they can steal the ball and dribble out of the
grid then the offense does 5 push-ups. That is all you say? 5’s add up very
quickly in this game on top of the running that must be done to execute at a
high level.

Messi breaks Barca scoring record

By Dan Baynes

     March 20
(Bloomberg) — Lionel Messi broke Barcelona’s all- time scoring record by
getting the second and third goals in his team’s match against Granada in
Spain’s La Liga today.

     Messi, who was
named soccer’s best player for the third straight year in January, tied the
mark of 232 official goals set by Cesar Rodriguez during the 1940s and 50s in
the 17th minute and secured the record outright in the 68th minute when he
lobbed the ball over Granada goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

Brasilian Futebol; Soccer Skills Development Ball

MLS alters designated player rule

From ESPN.Com

Major League Soccer is adjusting its designated player rules in the hopes of bringing in more young international talent, an area in which the league has struggled to gain a foothold.
MLS teams are currently allowed to have three designated players on their rosters — players whose salaries don’t fully count against the salary cap. But the decision by MLS to adjust the charge for younger players gives teams the latitude to take chances on younger international players where they may have been hesitant in the past.

International designated players age 20 or younger will be charged just $150,000 against the team’s salary cap. Players aged 21 to 23 will count $200,000 against the salary cap. Both of those numbers are down from the $335,000 charge for all other designated players.
“Our designated players are anywhere from their mid- to late-20s to their mid-30s. We’re getting players that are good players, veteran players, but we’ve been out of the market for the most part in young, promising players,” Durbin said. “If we want to continue our growth and continue the improvement of our on-field product, this is an area we have to be in.”

The rule will take effect for the 2012 season, but there are no plans right now to add any designated player slots. Durbin said the markets most likely to be tapped were South America, Central America and Mexico.

The league also will increase its scouting department to supplement what each individual team already does. Durbin said that would come in the form of more overseas consultants and a technological component at the league headquarters.

“The idea is not to become the scouting network for the teams but to provide a resource for the teams to do their jobs as effectively as they need to,” Durbin said.

US Tumbles to 30th in world rankings

ZURICH — World and European champion Spain remained at No. 1 in the monthly FIFA rankings released Wednesday, and the United States dropped six places to No. 30.

Netherlands and Germany rounded out the top three in the standings that will be used to help decide seedings in Saturday’s World Cup qualifying draw.

Brazil climbed one place to fourth despite only reaching the Copa America quarterfinals, while Copa winner Uruguay rose to fifth, its highest ranking.

Sixth-place England and No. 8 Italy both fell two places, but are assured of top seeding in their qualifying groups.

Portugal (No. 7), Croatia (No. 9), Norway (No. 12) and Greece (No. 13) completed the list of nine European countries set for top seedings.

France will be in a pool of second-seeded teams, which also includes 2018 World Cup host Russia and fast-improving Montenegro.

In the world rankings, Argentina stayed at No. 10 after it was eliminated in the quarterfinals as the Copa America host. Chile rose 16 spots to No. 11, and beaten finalist Paraguay climbed six to No. 26.

Copa America semifinalists Peru (rising 24 places to No. 25) and Venezuela (up 29 to No. 40th) made the biggest moves in the top 100.

Mexico won the CONCACAF Gold Cup last month, but fell 11 places to No. 20 after poor Copa America results with a young team of backups. The U.S. fell despite being the Gold Cup runner-up.

Ivory Coast led the African nations at No. 14, and Asian Cup champion Japan heads its continent at No. 16.

Elsewhere, 2022 World Cup host Qatar is up four places to No. 90.

A total of 175 national teams will take part in the 2014 qualifying tournament that will be drawn Saturday in Rio de Janeiro.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

U.S. Women’s National Team

Nice welcome home, just as it should be after such a great run.

Solo & Wambach