Of The Field Written
By Mario Pereira
Realizing and understanding the game of soccer will
evidently make you a better player. Coaches often refer
to the soccer field as thirds, "Don't dribble in
your back third" or "In the upper third take
your man on". These are simple instructions, however,
players have a tendency to play the same way regardless
of their position on the field.
It is vital to understand that at kick-off you will
have three different types of players in these areas.
This is because there are different responsibilities
and function to be performed during the game.
The back third is usually considered the defensive
area. In this area when your team has possession you
will have more time and space to be able to make intelligent
decisions. The middle of the field is where a transformation
takes place. Players in this area are usually very skilled
and crafty. These midfielders need to come and receive
the ball from the back third and turn it up to the upper
third of the field. The space is not as abundant in
the middle. The opposition will put more pressure on
the ball and this is why when the space is less the
time is less. The need for being skilled and crafty
is vital to the success of a player who spends most
of their time in the middle.
The upper third of the field is the area that most
players enjoy playing, however, it is the area that
the least amount of time and space will be available
to a player. A player needs to realize that as your
team penetrates the ball closer to score the defensive
is in a high pressure mode, determined not to allow
any opportunity to score. Usually in this third of the
field time and space is very hard to come by. A player
that knows where they are on the field will realize
that he or she may have to play quicker and move more
to keep the defender always adjusting.
What third of the field best suits your ability and
and a Ball Written
By Mario Pereira
Today, soccer in the United States is loaded
with instructions, organization and expenses. These
things are not evident in the culture of other countries.
Most of the other countries around the world utilize
the ball and the game itself to motivate and develop
players at an early age. Throughout the world today,
many of the top-level players share some similarity
about how it all began for them. A ball and a wall
seem to be that familiarizing factor. Because of the
conditions and economic situations in their country,
so many of these stars spent their time kicking a ball
against a wall. This is such a vital piece to the development
of every soccer player’s skill. When a player strikes
a ball against a wall and gets the ball right back,
this is a simple wall pass. More importantly, this repeated
action of striking and receiving the ball, will allow
you to improve and develop technique. We need to understand
that it is repetition that develops our technique. By
playing against a wall you are increasing the amount
of touches and developing your feel for the ball. As
a result, you learn to anticipate how the ball is going
to come off the wall and learn to anticipate receiving
the ball and then reacting to play it again. This repetitive
activity will raise the technical level of a player
at a rapid rate and contribute to a more confident and
attractive style of play.
Here in the United States, we have a tendency to practice
as much as we play. In contrast, in many of the other
areas of the world, a player will practice all week;
yet, plays only one game on a weekend. Throughout my
coaching career, I have had the opportunity to work
with people that have played at high levels simply because
of the conditions and economic backgrounds that they
came from. These players were able to keep themselves
entertained with a simple give and go against a wall.
Any player willing to be self disciplined and find a
wall can become a much better player because of the
amount of touches that he or she experiences with the
ball. Once again, I stress that when receiving the ball,
a player must learn to anticipate how to play the ball.
They learn positioning and control when gaining possession
of the ball off the wall. With more practice, they learn
to deliver it back with various types of passes. Playing
the ball off the wall prepares you to deal with what
comes next. This practice and repetition helps to develop
coordination and balance, which are two extremely important
aspects of the technical process.
Granted, a player needs to work on many different aspects
of the game. But, it is important to remember that as
a player, your skill is often measured by your ability
to deal with the ball when it is played in your direction
( receiving ) and how you play the ball to the next
player ( passing ). I believe that, for so many technical
players performing today throughout the world, it all
began with a ball and a wall. Certainly, receiving
and passing are not the only components that make a
soccer player. But, it is obvious that these are two
criteria of the game that are so important to reach
the higher levels of play.
- No Fans
- No Lines on the field
- No Nike commercials
- No pats on the back
- Just a spot on the field of every team you wish
to play for.
Bag" Of Skills Written
By Mario Pereira
In the past we have addressed the skill of trapping
as a means to better soccer. I also discussed the importance
of balance, as soccer is the only sport where you perform
most of the time on one foot.
This time around I would like to express the importance
of developing your own personal "black bag".
A medical doctor carries a black bag when he or she
has to treat a patient. The doctor may have numerous
patients, however, uses the same black bag and applies
different remedies to each patient. In soccer the same
can occur for a player. They may be under tremendous
pressure to react quickly at any moment, and have time
and space to make a thoughtful decision another time.
Your black bag is an invisible package of skills you
carry around with you on the field. When you are forced
to; turn, shoot, pass, trap, dribble, chip or cross
you will be able to do this with ease if you develop
you personal black bag. The more individual skills you
can develop, the better soccer player you will become.
This black bag is your ticket to self-confidence. Self-confidence
is one of the most important elements to successful
soccer. When you believe you can achieve, because you
have worked hard at developing your own black bag, then
you will achieve. You will be prepared for anything
that occurs in the game.
My advice to you is through you own ways, add more
and more skills to your black bag. You will be a problem
solving soccer player!
Most Important Skill in Soccer Written
By Mario Pereira
Much has been written about the U.S. style of play.
In comparing our country with other parts of the world,
they have found that the United States is having a difficult
time finding a style of play. At the youth level coaches
have not emphasized enough the importance of possession.
Most youth coaches spend too much time creating a game
plan designed to beat their opponent, and little time
on necessary skills needed for an attractive style of
The truth is that we have made many positive steps
forward, but we have made very few toward teaching skills.
Our young players need to focus their efforts on learning
style of play. We need to do away with the hockey style
of soccer, and incorporate more of a basketball style
where possession is an absolute must. If someone were
watching a basketball game and a player in the blue
passed the ball to a player in red, he or she would
consider that a bad play. However in soccer no one cares.
The solution to possession is through the development
of the trapping skill. With all the skills involved
in soccer it is hard to believe that trapping would
be the most important skill to develop.
Trapping is the skill most often overlooked. Coaches
need to help players develop their trapping skills.
Without it, players will never be able to control the
ball when it is played in their direction. The advantages
of having good trapping skills are endless, it enables
a player to get time and space this will allow the player
to make the proper decision with the ball. If a player
is unable to control the ball.
To Success Written
By Mario Pereira
Now that you have practiced the skill of trapping
the ball since our last issue, you can progress on to
other areas of the game in order to develop your soccer
future. Trap, look, pass, run are the four essential
skills you need to perform over and over in a game situation.
Regardless of position, all field players must execute
these four steps in that order. Trap - to gain control
of the ball. Look - up to see and study your options.
Pass - because your intention is possession. Run - to
an open space in hopes of receiving a pass and support
In order to achieve a high standard of play much work
needs to be done. You must continue to find some time
to work on skills. You may not always have time to look
around, and there will be situations when you will find
yourself under pressure. You must then utilize other
skills, such as; shielding (protecting the ball from
an opponent) or dribbling past an opponent.
At the youth soccer level there are always those few
players who are smaller than others. Skills technique
is a must because there are some skills that do not
have anything to do with size, for example shooting.
The power and accuracy of shooting is a result of all
your body parts working in a fluid motion, creating
perfect contact on the ball. Michele Platini, a French
national player, for many years was a perfect example
of this technique. The balance he possessed while playing,
magnified his technical ability, making his decisions
with the ball appear effortless.
My message, as a coach, to all of you young players
is to begin to incorporate these four skills into your
game. Trap - look - pass - run; with this process you
will help your team play better, and establish a competitive
style of play that can be fun and attractive. All young
players can reach this goal if you are willing to practice
By Mario Pereira
In soccer making the proper decision and seeing the
field is what separates the great players from the rest
of the pack. Field vision is often a quality assessed
in a soccer player when trying out for a squad. For
a good player good vision is habitual. Good players
know where their options are and will have options prior
to receiving a pass. An inexperienced player will control
the ball first then assess his or her options.
Good vision is something that can be developed over
time and with commitment on the athlete's part. During
practice, an athlete should condition oneself to always
glance over one's shoulder and to the sides, before
receiving the ball. Once again, we are reminded of the
importance of ball control. The more comfortable you
feel receiving the ball, the more time and space will
be available for decision-making. The space available
to dribble or pass and the position of one's teammates
will determine the options for the player receiving
the ball. Look at the next target before the ball gets
to you so that you already know how to position your
body or where you are going to pass the ball. Take a
mental picture of the situation. (Glance). Secondly,
a lot of players ignore half of the field. A player
must know what is behind him at all times so that one's
options are not cut in half. Players must observe the
field constantly while the ball is in motion. Upon receiving
the ball, decision making is easier because you already
have a mental picture of where you should be placing
the ball next.
My advice for players trying to develop their vision
is to constantly glance all around. It will be very
helpful if you improve your concentration and anticipation,
so that you can become a player with better vision and
a better ability to read the game.
By Mario Pereira
The action of players away from the ball is often
as critical to the success of the game as to those with
the ball. Players without the ball must continuously
maneuver themselves into an advantageous attacking position
where they can be available to receive a pass from the
teammate with the ball. A lack of support or movement
will force the player with the ball to over dribble
or be forced to make a longer pass resulting in loss
Support must also be at a proper distance. When supporting
too close to the ball, it will give the defender the
opportunity to play both of you. When the support is
from too far away, it will slow the play down. Longer
passes are more difficult to execute and resulting in
greater percentages of the ball being intercepted.
The support mostly overlooked is the one on the defensive
end especially when the opposing team has a variety
of players that have ball-handling skills. Supporting
at too great a distance can allow the ball handler a
chance to beat both of you, by giving him the opportunity
to beat you one at a time. If you are too close he can
beat both of you with the same move. Supporting can
also be done in a delay or contain mode, this will slow
the player down so that your midfielders and forwards
can get back and get goal side, and support of the team
Playing the game mentally is a big advantage to any
player. On the defensive end a player should be cautious
in moving in to double team on the ball. However when
the opponent has possession of the ball on either side
line, you must keep him on the side and whenever possible
move in for the double team.
When Does Soccer Become a Team Sport?
When does the game of soccer transform from little
kids chasing a ball and trying to score as many points
as possible to the structured team game that it is?
So often we watch the U-5 through the U-10 age kids
and we see many parents cheering “Go Johnny, Go
Johnny”. They feel that it is important for Johnny
to score four or five goals a game and everything is
about him. They may even feel that if he plays on a
Saturday and only scores one goal, then Little Johnny
had a bad day.
It is important as parents to realize that team play
is a concept that children need to learn. Many of the
victories at the U-5 through U-10 levels are based around
individual play and statistics and not the overall performance
of the team. Many coaches will use the stronger, bigger
and more dominant players as an advantage over their
So, the question still stands, when does this become
a team game? When do we recognize that it’s all
about the different responsibilities of each individual
position? Soccer is an intricate game, much like the
game of chess. Each week, the chess match becomes a
different game because the opponent and the pieces vary.
Obviously, when you are looking at the U-5 through
U- 8 age levels, these children do not possess the knowledge
or understanding of the game to play different formations.
They have not grasped the concept of positional play
and they probably do not understand individual responsibilities.
But, as a player gets older, and he develops his skills,
then it is time to incorporate team play. As players
begin to recognize their responsibilities, then you’re
able to change formations and tactics from one week
to the next. By doing this, you may be able to play
five backs or four backs one week or maybe even going
into a flat back.
Being able to change responsibilities from week to
week can change your game. One week you may play defensive
minded and stay back and protect your goal. The next
week you can be very offensive minded and attack the
other teams goal. This is the stage when players begin
to understand that they have a role on the team and
that they are a part of the team puzzle. This begins
to appear around the U-14 / U-15 age groups. At this
age, teams are holding on to players for longer periods
of time and they are able to explain these players that
they have different responsibilities. This is similar
to building a home. It is not just one person that builds
the home. It takes many different people with many different
skills to put the whole project together. When the project
is done, you have a variety of people that helped to
build the final masterpiece.
This is the same for a soccer team. You have all of
these different positions; sweeper, stopper, defensive
midfielder, striker, and goal keeper. It is important
to recognize that these players have different responsibilities
from one game to the next and coaches need to teach
the players how to adjust to the different teams that
they play. Coaches have to teach players to change their
game according to their opponents. Some teams may be
strong, so the coach may need to play a defensive style,
while other teams may be weak in certain areas, so the
coach should point out those areas that the team could
As you progress in the game of soccer, Little Johnny
no longer has to score five goals. What really matters
is that every player walks off the field feeling that
they fulfilled their positions responsibility and helped
out the team. The end result is a great feeling of team
pride and a sense of unity.
So, I guess when you’re young, and parents are
out there supporting Little Johnny, their main objective
should be that Little Johnny has a great day on the
field. We all make big deals over individual efforts
because kids need the self-esteem and a little push.
But, parents should know that soccer is a team sport.
It certainly is ok to walk off the field and pat your
own kid on the back. Eventually, as these young players
get more mature, they need to realize that each player
has their own responsibilities and has the opportunity
to play a role in the success of their team.
& Change of Pace Written
By Mario Pereira
Soccer players are constantly working on new moves
to add to their personal bag of tricks that will help
them perform while under pressure. The ability of a
player to create space between them and their opponent
gives them more options with the ball….dribble, pass
or shoot. Players should continue to maximize their
touches at training in order to develop more self-confidence
and a better touch with the ball. During the course
of a game, only one player possesses the ball. What
happens to the other 19 field players without the ball?
Very little training is put into this situation of a
player without the ball. Movement and Change of pace
are two elements that separate and define an average
player from the top players on the field. The top players
are the ones that end up making a significant difference
during a soccer game. A player without the ball needs
to find space to receive the ball and move to leave
space for teammates to take over. A player that is constantly
moving will create difficulties for the opposition.
Communication between defenders becomes more difficult
and the concentration level of the defender is challenged.
A player that does not move is predictable and easily
marked. This player will also have to perform under
pressure all the time. So, how do we train for this
situation? How can we develop good fundamentals without
the ball? One of the first steps to moving without the
ball is to be totally fit, so that you can be constantly
moving. The more fit a player is, the more determined
he or she will be to move during the game. This physical
conditioning will develop a players' mental attitude
towards movement. And movement creates space. Every
time the ball moves, you need to remind yourself to
move and get into a better space on the field. Often
players will tell themselves "move, move, move," so
that it becomes second nature. Movement is very important
for success on the field however, change of pace is
a necessary element in order to play at the higher levels.
Players need to develop different speeds of play. Too
many players play at the same speed. Unfortunately these
one tempo players are easily marked and find difficulties
finding space to make quality decisions on the field
with the ball. Well planned changes of tempo and rhythm
are the mark of top individual players and top teams.
The ability to condition a defender to slow down and
then quickly surprise them with a faster pace is imperative
to becoming a better soccer player. Change of pace creates
more options for you and your teammates. This is the
trade mark of Thierry Henry of Arsenal, one of the most
dangerous strikers in the world. So, if you want to
become a better player, get yourself physically and
mentally fit. Next, practice with "move, move, move"
in your head, until it becomes part of your game. With
time, you will become one of those players that is difficult
to mark and a menace to the defense.