How to Defend a Set Piece

Stalling a Free Kick - (Photo:

Set pieces are some of the most dangerous moments in any soccer game.  Usually they come in the form of a corner kick, but when a foul is committed in one’s own third of the field, a set piece can be a very tricky proposition to defend and can often create strange angles which will confuse even the best of defenders.  When coaching your soccer team on how to defend such set pieces, here a couple tips that you should be sure to cover in practice.

First things first, you want your team to force a delay in the game in order to give your players time to organize.  A sneaky team can easily utilize a foul to make a quick pass into space and get a player free in on goal while the helpless goalie and defenders are still trying to build a wall. Therefore, alert your players that one of them should immediately run up to the ball at the spot of the foul and simply stand directly in front of it.  This stalls the play and gives your team ample time to organize defensively while the referee instructs your player to move back.

Next, determine if you need a wall and if so, how many players must be involved.  Generally speaking, the closer to the goal the free kick is, the more defenders that should be placed in a wall to help block a shot.  Tell your goalie to take charge and help line it up with a goalpost so that a large portion of the goal is protected.  He or she can then take residence in the open area of the goal and will hopefully have a smaller area to cover.

The rest of your team must mark the opposing players.  In youth soccer it is best to have each player mark a specific person of the opposing team in order to prevent them from getting on the end of a cross and scoring.  When marking, make sure that your player is between the opposition and your goal.  This will create clutter in the penalty box and will help to block any shots should their player receive a pass in the area.

Also, instruct your team to clear the ball should they intercept.  This is not the time to pass your way out of the back.  The other team will have many players forward, and any ill-timed clearances can easily be stolen and punished with a goal.  Also, have your wall players make runs forward when the play beaks down.  If you can send a long ball up to them there is a great chance of your team creating a breakaway and you could find yourselves the beneficiaries of a goal.

Mostly, be sure to instruct your players to not be afraid in these set piece moments.  The players in the wall must be tough to withstand a powerful shot.  Likewise, your goalie needs to be vocal in organizing the defenders and should be brave in coming out to punch away an incoming ball.  Similarly, the defenders need to be willing to rise up and head away the cross.

A set piece often results in a goal because players aren’t used to defending them.  The flow of the game is drastically altered in these moments, so make sure your team is well prepared to handle set pieces efficiently.

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Nicholas Spiller

Nicholas Spiller resides in LA where he dreams of musical super-stardom on his bass guitar. He also writes for and is an avid Arsenal fan!

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