The Quick Switch – Blind Pass
Think about playing a pass or cross that will surprise the other team. Dribble to the right with your right foot and then swing a pass to the left, sending almost a blind pass to the other side of the soccer field. It’s the opposite way if you use your left. Dribble to the left side of the field and swing a ball back to the right side of the field.
The defender on the other side will not expect the pass. Hopefully you will catch the opposing team sleeping. You are selling the idea that you’re going to the side you’re dribbling towards when in fact you’re intention is to swing the ball over to the opposite side. Teammates will adjust to the expectation that a switch is coming.
Sometimes you can dribble a few times in the opposite direction you really want to play the ball – to throw the defense off – then you swing the ball to the other side of the field. It doesn’t have to be a long switch, just a quick cut back to the other direction can create a goal scoring opportunity.
Of course, this is a pass that has to be done at the right time and the right part of the field. It might a counter attack or when you have the ball in the attacking third.
Get the Cross In
As a rule almost, when you have the opportunity and are open, swing the ball in for a cross. Besides finding your intended target with the cross, and them scoring, you never know what else could happen. The ball could take a deflection and go in off the other team and into the goal or get flicked on to a teammate who can then take a shot.
If you’re out wide, try crossing the ball right when you get it. Do this the next two or three times you get the soccer ball. Then, when the defense is anticipating you to cross the ball again, that’s when you take the player on the dribble, beat them down the line, and cut the ball back to a teammate. Of course, you can always go to right towards goal and take a shot yourself if the opening is there. The idea with crossing the ball on a regular basis is to make the defense think you’re always going to serve the ball into the box, and then that one time you cut by them and go at goal. It’s also helpful to your teammates you are making runs. If they know you’re going to cross the ball they can time there runs accordingly.
Need an example of how to cross the soccer ball? There is no better crosser of the ball than David Beckham, just mimic what he does. Yeah, I know that’s easier said than done. See how Beckham puts the ball in with pace, so all the attacker has to do his redirect the ball on goal. That’s what you want to do when you cross the ball. No lofted balls when you cross it – whip the ball in at speed.
Play with Older Players
If you want to get better, try to find the best game possible near where you live when you are training. To become a great player you should push yourself, and there is no better way to do this than to play with more experienced players who are better than you are.
The idea is to pick up all of their tricks and skills that they have learned over the years. This kind of mentoring process is a huge part of improving your game and you often won’t even realize what subtle skills you’ll pick up, just by watching and playing with better and more experienced players.
Challenging yourself by playing with experienced players will speed up your play, make you play stronger on the ball, and you’ll learn from their experience – where to play the ball, when to pass, when to dribble, and where to make runs.
And it’s not just about playing with experienced or older players, it’s about playing with players who are better than you are. If there’s one short cut to getting better it’s playing with players who are better than you are.
Essentially “slowing down” means making the easy pass to the open player. It doesn’t mean necessarily slowing down your speed of play, rather it’s letting the ball do the work, and not forcing the play. Keep your mind moving fast and focused but play simple soccer. If there is an open player to pass to then play them the ball. Then, when they get closed down they play the ball back to you.
As a young player one of the difficult things to learn is patience. This means things like letting the ball do the work through one and two touch play. Each time you make a pass the defense changes their position and new things open up at different angles on the field – new spaces to run into, dribble, and pass are created when you move the ball. It might take five or six passes before you can find that one killer pass in behind the defense. There’s no need to force it though.
As a professional soccer player, you won’t have time to really think after receiving the soccer ball. Know what you are going to do with the ball before you get it. This means knowing where you’re support is coming from and receiving the ball with your body blocking it from the defender.
Eventually, playing simple soccer will become automatic when you are involved in the rhythm of the game. But it’s important to want and ask for the ball. If you don’t ask for the ball you might not get it – they might think you don’t want it or aren’t open.
Again, use your body to shield the ball so a defender can’t win the ball or if they do you’ll earn a throw in or a free kick. To get out of pressure, play simple give and goes with your teammates. Be aware of where you can move or how you can position yourself to help out your teammates. Using your body means dribbling with your left foot when there is a defender on your right and dribbling and shielding the ball with your right foot when there is a defender on your on your left. If you don’t know if you can turn or have time, keep your body between the ball and the defenfer and keep your head so you can find a teammate. You should always try to know where you are on the field by taking quick looks before you receive the ball. The key though is not to panic, if you’re closed down, shield the ball and protect it.
The idea behind soccer is really simple, it’s kind of like this, “Hey, hold the ball for a second while I get open or in a better position where I will have more time and can see the field better.” If you watch the best teams in the world, whether it’s Bareclona, Arsenal or Real Madrid, tehy move the ball around to the player with the most time and space. It’s a big game of keep away in a sense. And this is one of the greatest aspects of the game of soccer, where you work with your teammates to ping the ball around the other team, and they can’t even get a touch on the ball before you score a goal.
The Half Turn
If you’re playing as a midfielder, turn your body at an angle when you check back to the ball so you can connect with the forwards and the defenders. You can accomplish this by not having your back entirely to the forwards. Midfielders should try to be half-turned and facing one of the sidelines. This way they can view both the back line of defenders, if they are trying to make a pass to you, and the forwards and other midfielders to see where they are making runs.
When you play on the wing or in a wide position along the touchline, open yourself to the field, so you’re in a position to see the whole field and receive the ball. Again, instead of having your back facing the forwards you can turn your shoulder towards the outside touchline so you are open to the field.
If you watch players like Sergio Busquets or Xavi at Barcelona, they’re constantly looking over their shoulder before they receive the ball so they know if there’s a defender coming or if they can turn. They also rarely check back to the ball with their back turned towards the rest of the field. Instead, they look over their shoulder before the ball comes and come back to the ball almost half turned.