CUFC Soccer Principals of Play

Attacking Principles of Play

  1. Penetration – Exploiting created space with the ball.
  2. Support – Ahead of the ball - behind the ball - sides of the ball (key for ball retention)
  3. Width - Use of the full pitch to create space.
  4. Movement - Intelligent & calculated movement to create opportunities to receive the ball
  5. Improvisation & Creativity – Individuals combining, unexpected skills, eliminating opponent at appropriate moments in the game


In simplistic terms penetration is the act of breaking through the defence by dribbling, shooting, running or passing. We can start to coach penetration at an U10 stage of development.


A player in possession of the ball receives help to maintain possession. Support attackers provide forward, backward and sideways options to the attacker in possession. We can start to coach support at the U12 stage of development with an introduction to passing and receiving.


Attackers make runs into different areas of the field in order to draw defenders out of their positions. A coach can commence teaching this principle late U12 for advanced learners and U14 for others.


The attacking team attempts to stretch the opponent’s defensive shape. The attacking players use the width of the field to tempt defenders from a compact shape covering the dangerous areas in front of goal and in so doing create space. The attackers move the ball to change the point of attack in an effort to find a seam or space between or behind the defence. We can start coaching width in Late U12 and early U14.


Attackers will try to break down defences by employing the element of surprise. Skills such as back-heels, cut backs, flicks, feints and fakes are all used to this end. Comfort on the ball is critical and this training starts in the U10 stage of development.Principals of Play.


Defending Principles of Play

  1. Delay - Pressing or Dropping Off
  2. Depth - How Deep & How High
  3. Compactness  - Distance Between Units - Distance between individuals - Balance
  4. Discipline & Patience - Individual - Unit - Team
  5. Predictability - Force opposition into expected areas.

1. Delay

The ability to prevent the ball from being played forward quickly. A pressuring player needs to reduce the time and space of the attacker to prevent the ball being played forward. This is especially important when outnumbered to allow the team to re-shape to a loss in possession appropriately. We can start to coach Delay at an early U12 stage of development

2. Depth

Reduce the space behind the pressuring player. Provide support in defence. These players do not provide pressure on the ball but instead support the challenging player. Their relative position to the pressuring player is dependent on the situation and part of the field they are supporting the player in. Defensive support is generally much tighter than attacking support. We can start to coach Depth at a late U12 stage of development or early U14

3. Compactness

The movement of players to concentrate into an area of the field vulnerable to scoring opportunities. Most teams generally drop on loss of possession and recover towards their own goal. Players should make recovery runs back towards their own goal and goal side of the ball. We can start to coach compactness at an U10 stage of development

4. Balance

In order to cancel the threat of mobility provided by the offence, balance is required by the defending team to retain defensive shape. Balancing is an extension of delay and support. Balancing players provide additional support. Be prepared to leave weak side attacking players unmarked to balance the strong side of the field. We can start to coach Balance at an early U14 stage of development

5. Discipline/Patience

Defending players need to be patient and assess the risk involved in challenging for the ball. A well structured defending line can quickly become disorganized with one rash challenge. Players need to exercise control and restraint and re-adjust their shape to changing scenarios. Players also need to be alert to their surroundings at all times (switched on!). We can start to coach Patience at a late U12 stage of development

6. Predictability

Defensive movements should encourage/force the attacking team to play into certain areas of the field. Channeling play into particular well defended areas or less important areas of the field makes play predictable and increase our chances of regaining possession or decreases goal scoring threats. We can start to coach penetration at a U14 stage of development