Principles of Attack


Below is a basic summary of the principles of attack. These principles can frame all soccer activities. All coaches should know these principles and use them to inform how they think about practices and games. Furthermore, this vocabulary should be integrated into coaching as much as possible.

Penetration: Trying to score, moving the ball forward as quickly as possible; for example, it could be a forward pass or dribbling the ball forwards.

Support: Moving to help the player with the ball; for example, usually going toward the player with the ball or making an angle for a pass.

Mobility: Moving with or without the ball to unbalance the defense; for example, this can be multidirectional and can be directly or indirectly involved with play.

Width: Creating space from side to side on the field. This usually involves a player/players going towards the touchline, although width can be created anywhere on the field.

Depth: Creating space from front to back on the field. This usually involves players being in advance and behind the ball when your team is in possession.

Improvisation: Coming up with solutions to problems “on the go.” This is where players creatively problem-solve during games/practices and is arguably the most difficult offensive principle to teach.

Coaches should focus on one attacking principle at a time when teaching. What often happens is that we start coaching everything and it becomes very confusing for both players and coaches. I would suggest building an entire practice around one principle. For example, to do a session on dribbling, you might start with the Gate Dribbling Game, then play the End Zone Game (work through the progressions), then finish with a Scrimmage, but you would only coach/ask guided discovery questions related to penetration (as it relates to dribbling).

My new book, It Pays to Win on Offense: A game-based approach to developing soccer players that score and create lots of goals, is over 100 pages of games and activities that focus exclusively on how to coach attacking principles.

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