Soccer strategy: breaking down the 3-5-2 set

When Tony DiCicco coached the USA women's national side and needed help in the midfield, he would run a 3-5-2  Credit: Vincent Laforet/Allsport
The most recent formation to pop on the scene is the 3-5-2.

This formation is often used in higher levels of competition, such as collegiate or professional teams, but it is becoming more popular in the high school ranks.

To be successful with this formation, you must have exactly the right amount of talent. Because the talent is so precise to fit this formation, youth teams who randomly select members often don?t have the luxury and talent to use this formation.

The 3-5-2 set consists of three defenders: a left fullback, right fullback and a sweeper (or center fullback).

These three defenders must stay tightly together, no more than 10-25 yards apart from each other at all times. They form a slight triangle, with the sweeper nearest his own goal.

That means, from left fullback to right fullback the distance should be no more than 50 yards. These three fullbacks must work together, sliding back and forth across the field, supporting each other and making sure that all attackers are accounted for.

Generally, the two outside fullbacks will mark the two opposing forwards ?man to man? all game long, leaving the sweeper free to help out whenever necessary.

Because there are only three defenders, they are much less likely to make offensive runs. Only if they are absolutely sure that they will score or assist in a goal should they make an offensive run and leave the man their marking. Again, this defensive strategy is only for the most skilled of teams and very confident defenders.

This formation allows for three central midfielders and two outside midfielders. Again, skill level comes into play here. This type of formation should not be run by a team unless its skill level is excellent.

With three players in the middle it is critical that they all have tight ball skills as well as communication skills. They must all work together in attacking, defending, maintaining possession, winning 50/50 balls and controlling the overall pace of the game.

These 5 midfielders can be murder on the opposing team if skilled, but they can also ruin a team?s chemistry and ability if not properly trained. It takes a very special group of individuals to create a successful 5-person midfield.

The two forwards in a 3-5-2 have a very unique job. They must work together the entire game, rarely separating themselves by more then 10 to 20 yards.

Together, they must work to close off angles and defenders from clearing the ball out of the defensive areas. These two forwards must become so comfortable with each other that they can predict where the others next move will be.

It is very important for these players to be fast and agile. It is also important that these two players are in fairly good shape.

Now that there are only two of them on top, they have to pick up some of the slack for the missing third forward. With the additional fifth player in the midfield, the forwards receive a little bit more help then they would from the 4-4-2 formation, but still need to work together to produce.

The 3-5-2 formation is definitely not for everyone.

In fact, it is not for the majority. It is good, however, to be familiar with it ? what if an opposing coach is running it at you?

Picking a formation is simply up to the coaching staff. You want to pick the system that will best exploit your talents and support your less talented individuals.

Keep an open mind when picking formations, and don?t be afraid to try something totally new and unorthodox because, who knows? It could be your best formation yet.

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