The Defense's Most Valuable Weapon

A good soccer team has loud practices.

Sounds odd, but it's true. If a soccer team runs around during scrimmages and the players keep quiet, there's no way they're on the same page. If they aren't on the same page, they will get smoked by a team that is working together come game day.

It's especially true for the defense, which has to deal with opposing attackers constantly shuffling and adjusting strategies on the fly while trying to get behind the defense. The defense's best weapon to combat this is loud voices to keep each other alert to what's going on.

"Communication is the biggest thing," said goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, who plays for the Canadian national team. "If you can help your defender or midfielder or whoever's next to you by saying 'Hey, you step and you go 100 percent because I have your back,' that lets them go hard rather than go tentatively.

"I think that's the most important thing for having a successful defense."

Goalkeepers like LeBlanc are the most crucial piece of the communication puzzle. Keepers have the best perspective of the field and never have anyone behind them. They should be louder than anyone.

"You see the entire field. You are the eyes of the team," LeBlanc said. "So you have to communicate what you see, because you know everyone can't see everything that's going on. So it starts with the goalkeeper to the defenders to the midfielders to the forwards. That's why defense is an entire team project."

Defenders should constantly be chirping to each other, too. Things like letting teammates know if a forward is trying to slip by them, letting them know if they have teammates nearby for support--any clue that can help a preoccupied defender be more aware of the situation around them.

"We have to communicate and let each other know where players are running," said defender Stephanie Cox, who plays for the U.S. national team. "It's so huge. You really have to get on the same page, not just through time but through communication on the field."

So next time you lace up for soccer practice? Start talking. And don't shut up.

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