Making sure your soccer team has solid defensive skills is crucial to winning soccer games. The ability of players to defend on the field is an essential skill. Coaches play an important roll in getting young players to understand the principle of defending. The main principles of defending are pressure, cover, balance and compactness
PressureThis is the job of the defender closest to the ball. This defender should pressure the opponent and try to force her to put her head down and either give up the ball, or turn her back to the attacking goal. Great times to apply pressure to the ball are when an attacker has her head down, takes a bad touch, is trying to control a bouncing or high ball, or if the attackers back is turned to goal.
CoverThis is the job of the second defender. This defender must be close enough to the first defender to cover for her if she is beaten 1v1, but not so close that the same dribble or pass can beat both of them. In general, a covering defender is slightly deeper and a few yards off to the side at a 45 degree angle, preferably in a passing channel. A covering defender must be able to see both the ball and her attacker.
BalanceThe third defender (other defenders on the field in close proximity to the ball) provide balance, or in other words, a distribution of players across the field so that a quick switch of play will not beat all players. Balancing defenders move farther away from their respective marks depending upon how far away from the ball they are, and how much pressure is on the ball.
CompactnessJust as attacking teams want to spread out across the field, defending teams want to stay compact, in close proximity to one another. Compactness refers to an entire teams relative distance to one another, which will vary depending upon age and field size. While we do not want all the players pressuring the ball (although this usually happens at U8 and under, and that is OK), defenders should always defend the middle of the field from their goal outwards. The purpose of compactness is not to allow penetrating passes and scoring opportunities for the opponent.