2v1+1 to Goal with Counterattack Gates

2v1 to goal with the added complexity of another defender and counterattack gates.

2v1 to goal with the added complexity of another defender and counterattack gates.

In my last post, I discussed the importance of “numbers up” when teaching offensive concepts. This post continues that theme, but adds extra conditions that make the activity even more game-like.

Applicability: Playing numbers up on offense is a great teaching tool because it allows attacking players to experience lots of success. On the other hand, it is good for defenders, too, as they struggle to deal with a numbers down situation they are forced to figure out what works best, as well as the importance of pressure and angle of approach. Additionally, this is a shooting drill, but under game-like conditions. 2v1+1 increases the difficulty for the attacking team and encourages even faster speed of play to capitalize on the “numbers-up” situation.

Area: If you have a marked 18-yard box, use it; otherwise, put a cone 5 yards to the side of each post. After that, put a cone facing it approx. 18 yards away.

Activity: Divide the players into 2 even teams. Have the defenders line up behind the 2 cones level with the posts. Have the attackers line up in 2 lines on the edge of the box (far cones) facing them. The balls should be with the attackers. To begin, have one of the attackers dribble towards the goal and try to score. As soon as the attacker takes his/her first touch, one defender can come out to pressure her (but not before). If the attacker passes the ball to her partner, then the second defender can enter the play (from the other side) and they play 2v2. Players go to the other line once they have had their turn (e.g. attacker goes to the other attacker line and defender goes to other defender line). Give them a time limit (e.g. 75 seconds) to score as many goals as possible (keep count) and then have the two teams switch roles. Review guided discovery questions points, and repeat as necessary, then add progressions one by one.

Offensive Guided Discovery Questions:

  • Is it easier for you and your partner to beat the defender when you go slow or fast? (See what they say and ask why)
  • What is the best way to eliminate the defender from the drill? (See what they say and ask why – dribble straight at defender and then pass it before she she can recover/dribble past her or the second defender can impact the game)
  • If you pass the ball to your partner, what is the best type of pass and why?
  • When you receive the ball, where should you look to take your first touch? Why?
  • What types of shot can you employ to be successful in this drill?
  • How does shot selection pair with which foot you favor?
  • If you lose the ball, what should you immediately do? Why?

Defensive Guided Discovery Questions:

  • Do you want to pressure the attacker quickly or slowly? Why?
  • Do you want to defend high up the field, or near your own goal? Why?
  • Why is it smart to show the attacker away from her partner? Why?
  • What is a good way to tackle the attacker without over-committing and getting beat? (Poke tackle)
  • What can and should the goalkeeper be communicating during this activity? Why? Give some examples
  • How does the game change when the attacker makes a pass? What are the challenges in this situation? What are the opportunities?


  • Move the balls to the other side (move defenders over, too)
  • Move the starting positions of the defenders/attackers (e.g. more centrally/more to the side, start the attackers closer/further away).
  • Have the coach play the ball to the attacker.
  • Add counterattack gates for the defenders to score through.
  • Allow both defenders to enter the game on the attacker’s first touch (which makes it a traditional 2v2 activity)

Guided Discovery Questions after you have added Progressions:

  • How has moving the balls to the other side changed this game? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
  • How has changing the starting position of the defenders/attackers changed this game? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
  • What has changed now that the coach is playing the ball in? What do you now have to ensure with your first touch? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
  • Now that counterattack gates have been added, how has the game changed? (e.g. if the goalkeeper catches a ball, she can roll it out to her defender or thrown/kick it directly through a gate) What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?
  • How has the game changed now that it is a 2v2 situation? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?

Numbers Considerations: Again, this activity can easily accommodate 20 players; however, if you have access to another big goal, I would make two fields, as this will increase the number of repetitions/opportunities players have to participate.

Additional Notes: This activity can be used on its own and/or as a progression to 3v2, 3v3, or one of the “continuous” games. It is an important activity because it not only gives your players shooting practice, but it teaches the benefits of the overload in soccer.

Pass and Move: Fun Partner Gate Passing Game with Progressions


Gate PassingApplicability: Warm-up passing activity suitable for all ages (u8 and up) and levels. You can also precede this activity with Soccer Pong!

Area: 25 x 25 yards (W x L) or larger, depending on how many players you have.

Activity: Put players in pairs with a ball. Set up a number of 1.5 yard gates randomly arranged in your grid. The size and number of gates can vary depending on the number of pairs of players you have and their skill level. I would start with at least as many gates as pairs. Players score a point for each completed pass they make through a gate to their partner. Go for 30-45 seconds and have pairs keep count of how many points they get. See how many they get and ask how the top pair got so many. Get them to demonstrate. Repeat. Switch partners. Repeat.

Regressions: If your players are struggling with this game, make the gates bigger. The objective is simply to get them passing with their partner. You should always start an activity so that everyone can quickly find success. Once they understand the game, that’s what you can start to make it progressively more challenging.


  • Add restriction that players must use a certain foot or surface of the foot to make a pass and score a point
  • Replace some of the gates with pinnies (or different colored gates) and say that pairs must go through a cone gate followed by a pinne/bib gate
  • Make the gates smaller
  • Reduce the number of gates
  • Introduce a bandit (or pair of “bandits”) whose job is to stop pairs from scoring in gates. Change the bandit(s)
  • For advanced groups, mandate that the pass must go “over” the gate (chip pass)

Guided Discovery Questions:

  • What do partners need to do to be successful at this game? (See what they say, ask why, get them to demonstrate)
  • What is the best distance between partners so that you can be most efficient? (See what they say, ask why, get them to demonstrate)
  • What types of things can you communicate to make it easier for your partner? (See what they say, ask why)
  • How do you know where the open gates are? (See what they say, ask why, get them to demonstrate)

After you have added progressions: 

  • How has this game become more difficult? (See what they say and ask why)
  • What do you need to do to score more points? (See what they say and ask why)

Numbers considerations: Rather than creating two grids, just make your current grid larger to accommodate greater numbers of players.

Additional notes: Sometimes players will stand either side of a gate and just pass the ball back and forth. I love this! This means that they are using their brains! Rather than berate the pair that does this, celebrate them for doing the smart thing (remember, you gave everyone 30-45 seconds to get the ball through as many gates as possible). However, after you praise them, now tell the group that they cannot go back and forth through the same gate. Take this approach as players come up with new and innovative ways to scam the system! Simply modify the rules so that the players are forced to adapt.

The 4 Goal Game: Twice as Many Goals, Twice as Much Fun!

The 4 Goal Game: Twice as Many Goals, Twice as Much Fun!

The 4 Goal Game: Twice as Many Goals, Twice as Much Fun!

Ages: U8 and up. You could try it with U6, but I would add another ball to keep things flowing. 

Playing Area:

  • 30 x 40 yards (W x L).
  • Depending on your numbers and available space, make the field as big as you can (use existing field lines to help).

Activity and Set up:

  • Make 4 cone goals (one in each corner of the field). Goals should be approximately 6-7 yards wide (bigger goals = greater opportunities for success).
  • Let teams play against each other – even numbers. No goalkeepers.
  • For a goal to count, it must pass between the cones on the ground.
  • This game encourages players to start thinking about the “weak side” and to switch the ball out of pressure.

Guided Discovery Questions: 

  • On offense, do we want to make the field bigger or smaller? (Bigger). How do we do this? Show me. 
  • Do we have a better chance of scoring if we play slow or if we play fast? (Fast). Why?
  • Which goal should we always look to score in? Why? (the one with the fewest defenders around it).
  • What can you say to your teammate if you want her to pass you the ball on the other side of the field? (Switch). 

After 5-10 minutes of playing, consider layering in the following progressions: 

  • Put in a halfway line and mandate that all attacking players must be in the attacking half for a goal to count (this discourages goaltending/hanging back).
  • Add a neutral(s) to ensure the attacking team is always numbers up.
  • Put touch restrictions on the players (do not restrict them to fewer than 3 touches) whereby if someone takes too many touches, it results in a free kick to the other team.
  • First time finish (goal may only be scored off a first time shot).  
  • Transition – when a team scores at one end, it must now immediately transition and try and score at the other end of the field (the side they were just defending). Thus, when a team scores, both teams now shoot in the opposite goals. This helps to naturally rotate your players between offense and defense. 

I would love to hear from all of you about the use of Guided Discovery for this activity (and others). How are you using it? Are there questions that get better answers? How effective are you find it? Remember, the best Guided Discovery questions in youth soccer will contain the answer! 




Easy Partner Passing Game for U8s and Up: Soccer Pong





Soccer Pong is a fun warm-up that encourages improved passing technique through light competition.

Soccer Pong Ladder

Area: Big open space

Activity: Two players play against each other and share a ball. Two cones are placed anywhere from 2-8 yards apart to make a gate. Players pass back and forth to each other through the gate. The only rules are that the ball must never stop, must always stay on the ground and must go through the gate without touching the cones. Whenever a rule is broken, the other person gets a point. Because of the rule that the ball must never stop, players have to play 1-2 touch and use both feet. The narrower the gate, the closer the pairs are probably going to be. The wider the gate, the more the players will have to move laterally and look more like the old arcade “pong” game.

Coaching points: Ball mastery, appropriate foot surface, weight of pass, movement of feet, thinking ahead (to get into position for the next pass).

Make it into a competition: Make a ladder of gates and play games of 30-45 seconds. The winner moves up the ladder, while the loser moves down the ladder. Break a tie with “rock-paper-scissor.” This is a great introduction to passing and can be used at the beginning of practice to great effect. By making it into a competition, you will drive the players to improve their technique and it’s a whole lot more fun than just standing and passing for no apparent reason!