man people summer grass

How to Become a Great Soccer Center-Back? [FULL Guide]

“We always build out of the defense!” I’ve heard that saying from coaches on my first ever practice… and a million times ever since. The value of a quality defender particularly a center-back is self-evident. It is reflected in the price that these defenders are traded for. Virgil van Dijk, Josko Gvardiol, Harry Maguire, Matthijs de Light, Wesley Fofana, and Lucas Hernandez, have all been traded for over 80 million euros!

Yet, for some reason, every new young player asks to be a striker! The center-backs are still generally undervalued for their importance. The best coaches in the world see that, but the general public doesn’t. Let’s shed some light on the role, the formations where it is used (spoiler alert: all of them!), how to train for it, and how some players have written their names in soccer history as legendary center-backs.

What is a Center-Back?

A center-back, also known as a central defender, is a player positioned in the heart of the defense, typically as part of a pair or trio of defenders. Their primary role is to defend opposing attacks, win aerial duels, and distribute the ball strategically to initiate offensive plays. The actual role can vary based on the teammates and especially the opponents. However, there is nothing clearer in soccer than the primary role of center-backs and goalkeepers – prevent the opposition from scoring goals!

Generally, the center-backs play in 3 or 4-player formations. Based on that, they either have a sole central role paired with wider supporting roles or a natural partnership of two center-backs. In the first setting, the role of the central defender is to defend – period. The wider defenders often support the buildup play, sometimes even pushing up to assist or score.

When there is a partnership of two players, the center-backs try to balance each other. One is the natural aggressor, trying to prevent easy passes to the opposition striker. The other one has to provide backup any time there is a danger. We have seen that with the best teams in history, including the best teams today.

Formations with a center-back

As we said, you can’t really have a formation without a center-back, or really at least two of them. I usually play in a 4-3-3 formation until U15, so that no youth player takes the responsibility of being the last defender. The burden can be too big if the team starts to concede goals. However, in a formation of 4 defenders, it is likely that one player will push higher and help the attack when we are a controlled possession. Here are a few options of how to use fullbacks, but also how can a center-back become a ball-playing defender and even an inverted center-back. We have seen Manchester City doing that with John Stones in the 22/23 legendary treble season. It is a shorter distance for a center-back to push higher while the fullbacks come closer than it is for a fullback to move to the center of the pitch. Pep Guardiola recognized that and solved it with Stones coming to the middle. Also, he put natural center-backs on the sides, so now they have solid defense regardless of “losing” Stones as a defender.

Center-backs in 4-player defense- traditional and inverted

3-player defense

The 3-player defense, such as 3-5-2 or 3-4-3, can be very effective. While not ideal for youth soccer formation coaching, it provides solidity with the right players. As I said in the beginning, it is hard to find quality players when they are very young who want to play as center-backs. It requires patience, very limited risk-taking, and often lots of pressure. The role of defending the entire game can be uninspiring for them. However, at one point they realize the importance and can specialize in certain roles. The one role that symbolizes this is the sweeper or libero. They are the last person in the defense and, therefore carry lots of responsibility.

3-4-3 soccer formation. 3 defender formation
3 center-back formation – 3-4-3 soccer formation

What is a sweeper in soccer? What is a libero?

A sweeper in soccer, also referred to as a libero, is a specialized defensive player positioned behind the center-backs in a defensive formation. The sweeper’s main responsibility is to read the game, anticipate attacks, and use their exceptional ball-playing skills to initiate counterattacks and distribute passes from deep positions. They often decide on when to make offside traps, too. With the emergence of ball-playing sweeper keepers, having a libero is less popular.

Training guide for a center-back

The most important characteristic of a center-back is the psychological composition. A defender would rather draw 0:0 than 3:3. They would play it safe whenever they can, not taking risks. However, they are targeted by the strikers with whatever weaknesses they might have. Therefore, the center-backs can’t have significant weaknesses. If a center-back is slow, the opposition will put the fastest player they have against them and try to outrun them. If height is the disadvantage, then there will be high crosses for the entire game. Fair or not, attackers can use their strengths and center-backs will be attacked at their weaknesses. Similarly, strikers can play bad all game, but one moment of magic (or luck) will make them heroes. In contrast, center-backs can win all their duels, but one bad mistake can cost them the game.

Becoming a center-back

There are two major items to work on in order to become a world-class defender: individual defending and team defending. Individual defending is something that you simply have to excel in order to be good in the role. This means a combination of physical training, such as agility, speed, and strength. That 1v1 ability is often what we define as a natural talent for a soccer defender. Also, individual technical training – yes, technical defending practice is needed at the highest levels. Finally, basic ball manipulation skills are needed. However, the most important trait is the psychological barrier when playing against attackers who are excellent both technically and physically. It is vital to have focus, bravery, and determination. Again, these are things that can be learned and must be practiced. We won’t go into the drills here but will cover them in other upcoming articles.

Team defending takes 5 minutes to learn and a lifetime to master. The main goal is to only attack the opponents when we have an advantage – numerical, positional, or qualitative. The center-backs are the ones who will need to excel in making these decisions because they have to get them right. Of course, they will need to know how to delay the opponents and force them into a disadvantageous position, but then they need to be able to do the final strike. The whole concept of team defending is too much to dig into at this point, but it’s well worth reading about.

X factors of world-class defenders

Assuming we have mastered individual and team defending, we still know of players that have become legends in defending and others that are just “solid defenders”. It takes some time to motivate the young soccer players to get proficient in all these skills. But then there is something more to them, still. So what are those characteristics that we can see with the best center-backs?

Communication – Captains at the pitch and Leaders in the locker room

We talked about how to get players to communicate when they are young. As you remember, most of it was about defending as a unit. Now, that’s the minimum for defenders. However, because of their dominant presence and importance to the team, many of them become leaders. That still needs to be nurtured, as they are often young and inexperienced. So, it is important not to only give them the armband and the opportunity, but also to guide them to become leaders to their teammates and to themselves.

Defense is the best attack

I often want to rotate the soccer position of the players when they are young, even if they have picked theirs. let my center-backs play a few friendly games as strikers, especially when they are young. Understanding how attackers think is crucial. The defenders are often less pressured, so they can take their time and pick long passes if they see a gap to exploit. Of course, they need to be able to do these long passes. At the highest level, that’s not a problem given the time and space.

Reverse psychology is important, but so is the skill of attacking. Center-backs are naturally big and strong, so using them to defend and attack set pieces, such as free kicks and corners is important. Almost every world-class center-back has several goals each year from set pieces. Some of them are headers, but many are just acrobatic kicks. Being in positions to attack and knowing how to execute are important traits at the highest level.

Famous center-backs

There are many center-backs that left their mark in the world of soccer. The most famous school of defenders is the Italian one. Franco Baresi, Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, and Fabio Cannavaro are easily in the top 10, if not the top 5 center-backs in history. Franz Beckenbauer, Rio Ferdinand, Sergio Ramos, John Terry, Carles Puyol, and Nemanja Vidic, are right up there, but as you can see they are scattered from other nations. There is something in the Italian National Soccer Team and the way they coach defenders that yields superior results.


We explored the role of the center-back in modern soccer. We looked at the variety of them, how they fit in various formations, and how to become one. I have no doubt that for these world-class players, it is much more of a calling to become so good at protecting the goal. The traits are specific, the practice is intense and the work is never-ending. However, it is such a rewarding and valuable role, that I hope you appreciate even more after reading this guide.

4-4-2 diamond soccer formation by Rondo Coach

What is a Diamond in Soccer? [Complete Tactical Guide]

There are many formations that are hard to explain to young players. Sometimes we play with two strikers, other times with one. Sometimes we have inverted wingers and fullbacks, other times we have wingers and inverted fullbacks. Double pivot vs. single pivot? Ok, it can get really complicated. However, one of the simplest ones to explain is the diamond formation. Often used in the 4-4-2 or 3-4-3, this is a shape that is not only easy to explain because of the clear roles and responsibilities but also because it can be incredibly effective both for retaining possession and counter-attacking style of soccer. Let’s into this guide to the diamond!

What is a diamond in soccer?

The “diamond” in soccer refers to a tactical formation where players are arranged in a diamond shape on the field. It features a deep defensive midfielder, two central midfielders, and an attacking midfielder at the tip, often providing a balance between defense and attack.

The roles are incredibly clear. The holding midfielder acts like a single pivot, in front of the defense. The attacking midfielder is always the first possible pass, likely the most creative player on the team. The two other midfielders are the dynamos that has to be versatile players. They can act like carrileros, mezzalas, box-to-box midfielders, deep-lying playmakers, or any mix-and-match combinations. We’ll get into these variations and ideas on how to make use of this shape.

Formations to use a diamond in soccer

The diamond shape formation was historically created in the 4-4-2 formation. It’s natural to keep the diamond compact so that players have options to pass to. Also, instead of a flat 4 in the middle, by having the diamond, we open ourselves to assigning specific roles to the midfielder. For example, a creative player would play in the attacking midfielder role, while a defensive-minded player would take the holding midfielder role. However, depending on the rest of the formation and the result, we can vary them. If we have received a red card and try to hold to a one-goal lead, we will keep the diamond, but pull all four players back.


4-4-2 diamond soccer formation by Rondo Coach

As simple as it gets, we have a 4 player central midfield. They are tight and compact, letting the sides be occupied by the wingbacks. For backup, they can have the sides of the diamond support them as carrileros or mezzalas. Alternatively, when attacking on the flanks, we can have the two forwards act as raumdeuters or even wingers. In this scenario, the diamond stays narrow in the middle. The benefit is that this formation is flexible, but requires creativity. Having two forwards means that our attacking midfielder can cause havoc with passes behind the defense. This can be both in counter-attacks and when fighting to overcome low-block teams.

History notes: Arrigo Sacchi is the master of the 4-4-2 formation. While he didn’t use an obvious diamond shape, he allowed fluidity. Some great soccer players, future coaches, and soccer leaders were in the heart of it, such as Carlo Ancelotti and Rijkaard. Similarly, Guardiola, Xavi, and Arteta were the ones in the La Masia diamond.


While many teams play in the flat 3-4-3 formation with two wide midfielders, a better option is to deploy the diamond. The benefit of this formation is that we can have a high press, but have protection at the back. This means that the middle of the pitch can look empty at times if we use the wide midfielders. So, many formations force the striker to be a false nine. Instead, we can keep the diamond shape and use the wingers, while having a classic poacher in the middle.

A bit of history: it was Johan Cruyff who perfected the 3-4-3 diamond formation during his time at Ajax and Barcelona. In fact, all youth categories and the first team in Ajax played the same. That way it was a seamless transition when a youth player was promoted to play with the senior squad. It is still used today, especially to counter the more popular 4-3-3 formation. However, Cruyff was playing possession “total football”, while today we have Tuchel and Conte being more defensive and counter-attacking.

How to counter against the diamond in soccer?

If we want to understand how to play effectively against the diamond, we need to understand the gaps. The diamond shape is great when it stays in that shape, but it’s rigid when we want to add one more player to it. The team can play well with two wingers, creating a bunch of triangles. However, we kind of break it if we overload the central area.

In a 4-4-2 formation, the strikers cannot really come and help without breaking the shape and causing confusion. What we need to do instead is overload and prevent clear balls to the strikers. This means that we need to have tight markings on the passers.

When playing against 3-4-3, we need to make sure we overload the center area with 5 players but prevent clean passes to the wingers. Those passes will make us shift our entire formation to help imbalanced areas. It is not easy to play against a 3-4-3 diamond formation if they are playing a high tempo. So, we need to slow them down, by preventing clear passing lanes.

Rondos: The Diamond in Soccer

Have you noticed that the diamond shape is what we use in rondos? Do you think that’s a coincidence? The fact that we have three options for passing always makes it natural for players to have preferences, but also backup options. It becomes a subconscious decision-making activity. We always want to break the lines. If that’s not possible, we have backup options to retain possession. In the end, we look for ways to get advantage over the opponents and keep the ball. Either way, the diamond in the heart of the midfield area, and by practicing the rondo throughout their career, it becomes second nature for players to operate in the diamond shape.


We talked about what a diamond in soccer is, the formations in which we can use it, and how to counter it. What I am particularly excited about is the usage of it in youth soccer formations. If we have practiced rondos (and we should have!), the players should expect to see their teammates in a diamond shape naturally. Also, they would place themselves like that, too. It’s exciting to see how much of the formation will be planned, and how many players will be using it subconsciously.

toddler playing soccer

How to Coach Soccer to Kids Under 10? [Step-by-Step Guide]

You brought your kid to tryouts at a club, had so much fun, and decided to join the team. Then you realize that there is no dedicated coach and the club is asking for volunteers. No other parent is raising their hand and you decide to step in. You played some soccer in your youth and feel like you can really help. At the very first practice, you realize that this is not going to be a walk in the park – the players have no soccer skills and many of them don’t know why they are there or even want to be there. I’ve heard this story so many times. So, here’s a guide on how to coach soccer to kids that are just starting. I show you what our goals should be, how to approach them, and which drills to use at the beginning.

Soccer Practices for U10 players

Youth sports in the USA are often volunteer-based, where one of the parents decides to help as the coach. They show so much dedication and in return get amazing memories and an occasional gift for the soccer coach at the end of the year. This is especially true at the beginning when the kids are less than 10 years old. In fact, in soccer, the leagues at this age are called “Development League”. At these U9 and U10, where U means “under” to indicate the maximum age of the players, play a 7v7 formation that includes a goalkeeper. For anything younger than that, the leagues are usually just recreational played in a 4v4 format. As you can see based on the number of players, we keep the player-per-ball ratio small. That way players can touch the ball more often. It is the most important statistic of early soccer development.

Your main role as you coach soccer to kids at this age is of an animator, not youth tactical genius. As we discussed in the article about ways in which technology can help soccer development, the players need deep practice, which comes from being adequately challenged (not too much or too little) in an engaging activity and receiving timely feedback, both encouraging and corrective as appropriate. We ask the coaches to do that simultaneously, with a dozen players. Because that is unrealistic, people often ask me what is the most important aspect. Well, the most important aspect is to engage the players in practice. Even if they don’t receive any feedback, or are inappropriately challenged, they have to participate in the activity. If you fail to do that, nothing else is important.

Which Drills to Coach Soccer to Kids at U10, U9 and U8?

The ideal drills for U10 and younger kids are those that enable them to get many touches on the ball. They need to have game-like environment that can be used as situations for controlled repetition and helpful feedback. Finally, they need to have increasing complexity and intensity, that will be used as the players get better and older.

As they master these drills and move to higher age groups, these drills will be just warmup drills for them. Initially, you should be able to describe the drills in only few sentences. After that, they will remember the drills, recall them and quickly start them in subsequent practices.

Return of the King

Very simple drill that players love – the king is the one that returns with the ball. I bring all players, at this age about 10, inside the 6-yard box, each with a soccer ball. I ask them to kick it outside of the 16-yard box. At the whistle, they need to get one of the balls, any ball, and bring it back to the goalkeeper area – the 6-yard box. They have lots of touches to dribble the ball but also sprint with the ball. Let’s call that Round 0. It’s really a matter of learning the rules and everybody is a winner.

Round 1: I take several balls out and put them in the goal. Now they have 7-8 balls and 10 players. That means that they need to fight for the balls, making it a bit more interesting. They will dribble and play some defense.

Round 2: I ask them to split into pairs and leave 4 balls there. So it’s 5 pairs, but 4 balls. This means that they will need to try and work together to create 2v1 if possible. Some passing is there, but many will get by with only dribbling and sprinting.

Round 3: I split the group into two teams, but left only one ball in. Essentially, this is a game 5v5 where there is no big goal to score, but area to occupy. It’s about possession and ball retention, without using those terms. Players cannot really kick and run because the opponents might be the ones getting the ball in the penalty box. It’s one of the first drills that require patience as a team. It’s a great introduction to positional play.

Run around the goals for 1v1 or 2v2

There are many things to consider when scouting and evaluating players, but how they do on 1v1 and 2v2 will tell you most of what you need to know. We simply cannot develop players if they don’t have experience in 1v1 and 2v2. They need to win their duels! So, we practice lots of those in various situations. We often want to make sure players are aggressive in their approaches, so we create tight situations. Sometimes we want to add an extra element, so we try throw-ins or high balls to teach something new.

Last Man Standing

This is a high-intensity drill, with increasing intensity. What I like about it is that it takes less than 30 seconds to explain it, everybody is into it regardless of age and skill, and players really try their best. I usually take a large space, like the penalty area. Everybody starts with a ball and their job is to keep it for themselves, and not leave the area. If the ball is out of the area, it’s a dead ball and the player needs to find another ball to get. It starts with N balls and N players, and by the end, there is only one ball and N players.

The next level is to have them in pairs and start with one ball per pair. That means that one player is always free of ball to attack other pairs. The main gap in the first variation is that there is no passing or receiving. So with this change in rules we get that, too. Expect for this flavor of the drill to finish much quicker than the previous one. You will likely run it multiple times or even increase the size of the area.


Rondo Progressions

We wouldn’t be called Rondo Coach if we didn’t suggest rondos from the first day. Yes, even when players don’t have any skills, we should have rondos. We should start with no opposition rondos – both 3v0 and 4v0. Then move to 4v1 rondos, giving minimal pressure to the players. We move to 5v2 firstly to still keep more than one option to the players, while increasing the pressure. Finally, if at the U10 level, you can have your players play 4v2 rondos, you are in great shape.

Playing time at U10 (U9, U8, …)

It looks like a special topic that keeps coming up when I talk to coaches. They always ask me about equal playing time in soccer games at this age. If you think that limiting playing time for 7-year-old kids is an okay punishment, then probably you are in the wrong century. We know that rewards work better than punishments, for both 7 and for 77-year-old people. In the winter, you don’t want your soccer players freezing in the cold on the bench because you are making a point. So, think about playing time as a reward, not punishment. Make players do actions that would give them playing time. I often try to target double the number of games my teams play at this age. I invite other teams in the off-season, just so that my players get more playing time. Furthermore, I don’t keep a 15-player squad when playing 7v7. You need to get players the experience of playing soccer now before it’s too late.


I know it can be scary start to coach soccer to kids. You are responsible for development of the players, but also these young people. What you need to do is to believe in yourself. They need a role model and somebody to aspire to. So try to be the coach that you needed and you are likely going to be the coach they remember. Don’t worry about the individual soccer practice of each player, but make sure you challenge them. If you care, they will know. I hope you can use some of the tips, tricks and drills shared here. But I am always learning and I am happy to hear interesting advice and experience from you!

4-4-2 Diamond Soccer Formation. Perfect Soccer Formation for Carrilero

What is Carrilero in Soccer? [Complete Tactical Guide]

I often see a midfielder going sideways while everybody is going forward. It is almost as if they are playing their own game. We see that the opponents kind of ignore them and just find them weird. Then all of a sudden, they receive the ball and make a killer assist. When we see a pattern of this repeating in certain teams, we realize that it’s not a random initiative the player takes. It is a tactical pattern instructed by the coach. In order to create chaos in the opposition’s defense and make use of the particular qualities of the players, coaches decide to give special instructions to technically gifted players with great passing range and play them in the carrilero role.

What is the Role of Carrilero in Soccer?

Carrilero is the role of a central midfielder that occupies a wide area of the pitch. The main purpose is to provide support to the wingers without pushing high. Often used in a diamond-shaped midfield, they are the two players on each side of the diamond. They are particularly effective when playing against low-block teams. Carrileros provide a numerical advantage when patiently attacking the flanks. This means that wingers can drop the ball back to them for switching to the other side, but also play one-two passes to them. The players are usually solid technical players with great vision and decision-making abilities.

Formations for a Carrilero

There are lots of different ways to use carrileros. Historically, the role was originally created in the 4-4-2 diamond formation. However, over time coaches looked at smart central midfielders to bring balance to their teams. Any time they saw a hole created by an aggressive fullback or winger, they decided to move a player there. On the other hand, if the midfielder needs to be the aggressive one, then they become mezzalas. This means that often in a 3-5-2 formation, the wide areas are covered by one player, which creates a disadvantage against other teams. Similarly, when using 4-3-3 with an inverted fullback, we have a misbalance in the wide areas. That’s a perfect opportunity for a carrilero to step in.

Carrilero Soccer Formations

4-4-2 Diamond

4-4-2 Diamond Soccer Formation. Perfect Soccer Formation for Carrilero

In a classic 4-4-2 diamond formation, the fullbacks act as traditional fullbacks. This means they would often push high, almost wingers when attacking. This would leave a gap on the wide areas between the defenders and the winger area. So, the central midfielder closest to that area would drift to the side to occupy that place. Now, the timing has to be perfect for the player not to block the fullback’s run, but also not too late, so there can be support for it. Lots of communication and smart decision is required for this pattern to give the desired effect.

3-5-2 Formation

3-5-2 Soccer Formation with Carrilero

The main issue in the 3-5-2 formation is that the players are heavily concentrated in the middle of the pitch. This means that defensively it operates well, but it’s hard to play against similar teams with low blocks. Therefore, while the wingbacks can push all the way to the front of the line or act in a 5 line defense, there will always be a numerical disadvantage against teams that play with both fullbacks and wingers. To fix this we need carrileros. They stay in the heart of the pitch but opportunistically move to the side. They provide support behind the wingback in attack when the wingback pushes forward. Similarly, they play in front of the wingback when we defend with all 5 players. Remember, the wingbacks move vertically, while the carrileros move horizontally.

4-3-3 with an Inverted Fullback

We often create a misbalanced formation when attacking with an inverted fullback. While one of the fullbacks moves as a second pivot, the coach often wants the other side to have the benefit of a fast wingback. Therefore, one side has both a wingback and a winger, while the side that has the inverted fullback has only a wide player – the winger. To provide support, we have the role of a carrilero on that side. This means that at moments we can play in a 4 player central midfield, but other times we can shift one player to the side. On paper that is fine, that is fine to defend. But when the attackers move between these formations, it is going to create opportunities for penetrating runs and passes into space. It is often the carrilero’s job to find these passes.

Attributes of a Carrilero

As it is a very specific role, it is often fluid in the requirements. However, I like to find experienced players to complement the others on the team. First of all, their positioning has to be spot on, otherwise, the team looks chaotic. Secondly, their decision-making has to be right or there is not much point in having them. Finally, their physical attributes are more dependent on agility than pace, as they don’t need to cover lots of ground, but have to win duels.

Attacking traits

The main attacking attributes of a carrilero are technical brilliance, long-range passing, and vision. The technique is developed over time, but it is key for the player to understand how to operate in the middle of the pitch. They usually have the freedom to try uncertain passes to the attackers, but most of the time it is all about ball retention. Having experience playing as a 6 or 8 is important, ideally as a deep-lying playmaker or regista.

Vision means they can see the attacking and defending players. However, that doesn’t mean that they can play all the passes. In fact, good vision without long-range passing ability can lead to switching the ball with shorter passes to the other side. Similarly, long-range passing without vision means that the player might more often find the wingers on the side, even though their poacher keeps making clever runs in front of the goal.

Defending skills

The defensive attributes of carrileros are similar to the ones of box-to-box midfielders or deep-lying playmakers. They need to be able to delay the opponents when playing as a cover for an attacking fullback. They often just need to make sure there is no easy outlet for a counterattack by being good at marking and positioning, rather than recovering the ball. Similarly, we can assume that there are at least 2 or 3 defenders behind them, so speed is not the main consideration here. When playing in front of the fullbacks, presumably in our own half, they need to make sure they drift wide and back to the middle, to create a compact unit with the rest of the team. Positioning is more important than aggressiveness, in this case.

Famous carrileros

There are many players that have played in multiple positions over their career and carrileros were just one of them. Therefore, no soccer player will actually write in their biography that their role was a carrilero. It is more likely that they would play one match there, then the next match maybe as a regista, then box-to-box, and so on.

In more recent history, Jordan Henderson has famously occupied that role in Liverpool. With the wingbacks pushing so high and the wingers often inverting, he brought balance to the squad. Oftentimes, Fabinho in the same system would do the same. That’s a classic example of the 4-3-3 or even 4-4-2 formation with traditional fullbacks needing carrileros.

The most famous carrilero in the 3-5-2 formation is Kante as part of Chelsea FC. Even though he came as a holding mid, he played up in Chelsea to support the wingbacks. Over time the coaches started deploying other players there, such as Kovacic and even Mount, but Kante really excelled in that role.

Finally, I want to give a shoutout to Santi Cazorla in Arsenal. In the early years, he was a winger and sometimes an attacking mid. However, over time his pace and stamina were not up to the standards of the Premier League. So, Wenger started deploying him in the center of the pitch. With his experience, we would often shift to the side as a carrilero, leaving space for the fullbacks and (inverted) wingers to attack. This made the team very unpredictable and difficult to defend against.


There it is – a full guide to carrilero in soccer. We covered what the role is, which formations to use it in, and the characteristics of it. The specificities of the role is so interesting that it cannot be explained in a brief definition, so we decided to get into the details of it. Finally, we gave examples of the players who graced the role at the highest level. They definitely made us think of how to balance our teams to win possession and games.

people watching soccer game

Inverted Fullback: Guide to the Tactical Role

When one of my teams moved to play from 7v7 to 9v9 at the U11 level, one of the players came to me disappointed. As you know, I play 2-3-1 and transition to 2-3-2-1, with little difference on the wingbacks. So, the player, a very natural fullback, said it’s boring to play the same role again. Of course, they said they knew everything there is to know about that position. Little did they know that I had a 5-year plan for them to learn things that will make them a complete master of the fullback position. At 9v9 they will learn both overlapping and underlapping runs. However, at the U14 level, the player is ready to discover the Inverted Fullback position. Those that know how to play it effectively, can revolutionize the soccer team they join.

What is the Inverted Fullback Position in Soccer?

The inverted fullback position in soccer is similar to the traditional fullback in defense but plays in the central area of the pitch when the team is in possession. They transition between two positions when the team wins or loses the ball. While playing in a formation of 4 defenders, by inverting, the fullback leaves only 3 players on defense and adds an extra player in the midfield. This effectively makes the team change formations, like 4-3-3 to 3-4-3 or even 3-2-5.

There is no requirement if the inverted fullback is the one from the right or the left side of the pitch. However, only one fullback can do that. When I play with two traditional fullbacks, each of them has the freedom to push higher in the attack. Of course, they would do that only if the ball is on their side. Otherwise, they slide to form a 3-men defense. However, in the inverted fullback role, the side that moves to midfield is already decided as soon as the ball leaves that area of the pitch.

Inverted Fullback in 4-3-3 Soccer Formation

Which formations should I use?

As I said, it has to be at least a formation that starts with 4 defenders. If there are only 3 defenders, it is unlikely that the wider defenders will move to central midfield. More likely, the central defender will push higher, leaving a 2 player defense. However, even that is unlikely. Similarly, in a 3-5-2 formation, the central area is already congested. Of course, you can remove some of that congestion by giving a carrilero role to a player, but it has to be right fit. Furthermore, the wide areas have only the wingback, so they will probably stay hugging the line.

Youth soccer formations and development plan

As I said before, we don’t coach this until U14. Why? Because until then the players need to learn the traditional fullback and winger role. Their positioning is already not ideal and often the middle of the pitch is full of players running after the ball wherever the ball goes. However, by the time they play at U14, they are ready. They had at least a year to play in a 4-3-3 formation. At this point, the wingbacks know how to push up the field and make overlapping and underlapping runs. More importantly, they also know how to slide into a 3 person defensive line.

OK, so now that we have put a player into the central midfield, how will they perform? Well, it depends if you have done the groundwork. At U11, U12, and U13 levels, you have to vary the soccer positions of the players. That doesn’t mean that every player will play at each position. However, a striker should try playing as a winger and attacking midfielder at least. A standard central defender should at least try playing as a holding mid and a wide defender. Even the goalkeeper has to play outfield at this age! So, several of the fullbacks should have experience in playing in the central midfield. This is the time for them to experiment and learn.

When should I use an inverted fullback?

Now that you know how to create these invaluable types of players, you should think about when to use them. Firstly, we need to analyze the advantages of our team and disadvantages compared to the opposition. For example, the talent advantage is that our fullbacks are super fast and are good at crossing to our big strikers. Then we should use that whenever we can. Think about the legendary Manchester United team with David Beckham in it. They needed to get Beckham in a situation where he can cross the ball to the tall strikers. They would never move Gary Neville to invert and play through the middle. You play to our advantage.

However, if you are playing against a team that uses a low block with 1 or 2 attackers pressing the middle, you can really benefit from a 3-2-5 attacking formation. You will overload the front line, but still dominate the middle of the pitch. Their attackers will not have time to hold the ball up, as they will be surrounded by your players.

Note that this is only for patient buildup play. When you plan to have counterattacks, you cannot wait for your fullback to invert. As you probably noticed by now, you shouldn’t plan on doing this when the opponents are dominant in possession. Instead, use this if you know that you will retain most of the possession in the game. Does that mean you will selectively play in this role? Most likely yes, unless you have the technical dominance in the league over everybody else.

Training guide and attributes needed for inverted fullback

We mapped out the time to introduce the inverted fullback role – at the U14 level. However, that’s not day 1 in your development. In fact, that’s just the cherry on top. By then the targeted players should have most of the tools ready. It is your job just to show the final touches on how to fit in the model. By that time they should know how to defend and attack on the wing, slide into a 3-person defense line, throw in and receive from throwing, do overlapping and underlapping runs, and understand how to drop and switch the ball to the other side. Let’s examine when they should learn these skills.

U9 and U10 – 7v7 formation

7v7 soccer formation 2-3-1 by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
7v7 soccer formation 2-3-1

In our 7v7 tactical analysis, we talked about how we will always play in the 2-3-1 formation. So, the fullbacks are both defenders and wingers. This means that they would learn how to attack the wings, including staying wide, cutting in, and crossing. Let’s not forget that the most important thing for a fullback is to learn how to defend. They need to defend 1v1 but also understand how to transition between attacking and defending. By that I mean, in defense they compress as a team and stay between the opponent and the goal. When attacking, they spread out all the way to the edge of the field. Finally, this is the moment they learn how to throw in – the wide players always take them in this formation.

U11 and U12 – 9v9 formation

9v9 soccer formation 2-3-2-1 by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
9v9 soccer formation 2-3-2-1

As we are in the 9v9 competition for 2 years, the default formation is 2-3-2-1. At this point, the fallbacks have a basic idea of the role they need to play. The two new players will stick mostly to the attacking midfield or the half-spaces. This gives us a perfect opportunity for the fullbacks to learn how to do overlap runs. However, this is also the moment when they need to learn how to form the 3 person defense line with the fullback that doesn’t push up. They will learn how to pass the ball backward and move it across the central defenders to the other side. It sounds simple, but players at their age will never pass backward unless practiced. Never, ever 🙂

As we have two years, we can spend six months on rotating positions, allowing the fullbacks to experience playing in the center of the pitch. However, if you decide to spend half a year on the 3-1-3-1, then the fullbacks can play as wingers. This means they will learn how to receive throw-ins as wingers and also do underlap runs as fullbacks.

U13 and U14 – 11v11 formation

Finally, it’s time for 11v11 and for many 12-year-old kids, it can be overwhelming. Therefore, for the first year, we just stick to the classic 4-3-3. However, then we can pick one of the fullbacks to try and invert. Obviously, we’ll pick games where we are technically dominant. They will practice receiving throw-ins as center midfielder. They would also do underlaps if they played a more attacking role. However, their biggest new experience will be to learn how to switch the ball from side to side. They will learn with the other central midfielders to retain possession and help move the ball from one winger to the other. Similarly, some of them will learn to drift to the side areas, taking the roles of carrileros and mezzalas. At any point they can also look for a pass forward. They can be deadly against lazy defenders that switch off from time to time.


The inverted fullback is gaining popularity in modern soccer tactics. Because of the unpredictability, versatility, and often both technical and physical qualities, players that can play in that position bring high value to the teams they play. Also, that means they are more likely to find a spot in the starting 11. Coaches like the option to change the formation and approach without a substitution.

We covered how to train players for this position and role, from 7v7 in U10, through 9v9 in U11 and U12, all the way to the 11v11 in U13 and U14. After that, you will have players trained in both traditional and inverted fullback roles. With this guide, you will get a good idea of when to use them and how to get advantage over the opponents by deploying your inverted fullback.

man in green shirt playing soccer

What is a Poacher in Soccer? [Complete Guide 2023]

“I want to be a striker!”. I have heard that so many times when coaching kids that cannot even tie their shoelaces. However, as they get older, they understand that the role of the striker can vary significantly. If the advantage over the defenders is in speed, then they would do runs into the space behind them. Big player will act more like a target man. If our team has deadly wingers, we might deploy the striker as a false nine. However, if our striker is a poacher in soccer, we expect them to score goals. They operate in virtually all soccer formations, but they are always the ones leading the front line.

The Role of a Poacher in Soccer

The primary role of the Poacher is to score goals. They operate in the penalty area, looking for tiny gaps between the defenders to just take a touch on the ball and put it in the back of the net. The poacher is often called “fox in the box” and is very tough to guard against. The attributes required to excel in the art of poaching are reflexes, agility, and anticipation. Perhaps the best way to describe poachers is that they have a “smell for goals”. They know when and where to make the short sprint. They get in front of the defenders and score the goal.

A poacher is a player who operates in the offensive line with a primary focus on scoring goals through close-range opportunities. Their positioning and anticipation skills are key, as they thrive on being in the right place at the right time. So the timing and explosiveness, as well as the clinical finishing is what the poacher needs to practice constantly. Poachers exploit defensive errors, rebounds, and loose balls to convert them into goals. While not necessarily involved in the buildup play, their ability to finish chances efficiently makes them a valuable asset to any soccer team.

Attributes Needed for Poacher in Soccer

  1. Sharp Instincts: Poachers possess an innate ability to read the game, predict where the ball will land, and position themselves accordingly. This requires exceptional situational awareness and football intelligence. Now, this is a combination of innate abilities and experience. Many of the poachers decline physically over the years but manage to score more goals in their 30s. The most recent players that have shown us that are Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski, and Karim Benzema.
  2. Quick Reflexes: Given the close proximity to the goal and the rapid pace of the game, poachers must react swiftly to capitalize on scoring opportunities. Their ability to make split-second decisions sets them apart. The best strikers manage to get their foot before the defenders just a fraction of a second sooner. That’s all that is needed at the highest level and the highest pace.
  3. Clinical Finishing: The hallmark of a poacher is their proficiency in converting even the most challenging chances into goals. A composed and accurate finishing touch is essential to make the most of the limited space and time available. When two even teams are playing, often there aren’t many chances on either side of the pitch. So, that difference in who takes their chances is the deciding factor.
  4. Movement and Positioning: Poachers must be adept at making sharp, deceptive movements to outwit defenders and find pockets of space within the penalty area. Their positioning ensures they are ready to pounce on any loose balls or rebounds. This is a combination of knowing where the opponents are blocking them and where their teammates can find them with the ball. Poachers don’t rely on being found, they make sure they will be.
  5. Anticipation: Anticipating the trajectory of crosses, shots, and passes is a crucial skill for a poacher. This allows them to position themselves optimally for goal-scoring opportunities. Some of the best poachers are always scoring rebound goals. In theory that is not a plan for success. However, some of the best poachers have scored dozens of goals each year that way.

Practice Drills for Poachers in Soccer

  1. Rebound Drill: Set up scenarios where the goalkeeper makes saves, and the poacher must react quickly to the rebounds, ensuring they’re in the right position to convert the loose ball into a goal. Ideally, it’s a 3 person drill: one player takes something like a freekick, the goalkeeper tries to save it and the poacher makes a run to pick up the rebound ball.
  2. One-Touch Finishing: Work on improving quick decision-making and accuracy by practicing one-touch finishes from various angles and distances. This hones a poacher’s ability to react swiftly and make the most of tight spaces. This is the bread and butter for poachers, so these drills never stop for them. It starts from early age in soccer practice, and it keeps building over time.
  3. Positional Play: Create exercises that simulate real-game scenarios, focusing on the poacher’s movement within the penalty area. This helps them understand how to find gaps in the defense and position themselves optimally. We like to do a variation of the rondos, maybe a 5v2 rondo, where the poacher is the only player that can shoot on goals. We leave two goals to make it easier to shoot, but the real goal is for the poacher to find space to receive and shoot.
  4. Crossing and Finishing: Have players practice crossing the ball from different areas of the field, while the poacher aims to connect with these crosses and score. This improves the poacher’s ability to read and anticipate deliveries. Practice low crosses, medium crosses, and high crosses. Similarly, vary the short distance, medium distance, and long distance. There is lots of overlap with the one-touch finishing of it, so they can often be combined.
  5. Defensive Pressure Drill: Simulate scenarios where the poacher faces defensive pressure while receiving the ball. This drill enhances their ability to stay composed and finish under pressure. While the poacher in soccer doesn’t always need to hold the ball high, it is useful to have that skill. Now, if they can sometimes get around the player with a one-touch dribble, that can make them a big threat. Similarly if they can create space to shoot with a tight dribble, that can lead to more shots on goal and more goals.

Famous Poachers in History

  1. Gerd Müller: Known as the “Der Bomber,” Müller was a prolific German striker who played for Bayern Munich and the national team. His exceptional positioning and clinical finishing earned him 68 goals in 62 international appearances. He is not one of the players in history that were transformational, like Pele or Maradona. However, he was so clinical (>1 goal per game for Germany) that he epitomizes the role of a poacher in soccer.
  2. Ruud van Nistelrooy: This Dutch striker was renowned for his poaching skills during his time at Manchester United and Real Madrid. His ability to convert half-chances into goals made him a feared presence in the penalty area. Nobody could pinpoint only one quality that he had, except that he would score lots of goals.
  3. Miroslav Klose: A World Cup-winning German striker, Klose’s ability to score goals from close range made him the all-time leading scorer in World Cup history. His anticipation and positioning were instrumental in his success. He played alongside world-class players, but he knew exactly where to be at the right time. Simply brilliant!
  4. Filippo Inzaghi: Inzaghi, an Italian striker, was celebrated for his knack of being in the right place at the right time. His poaching prowess helped him win numerous titles with AC Milan and the Italian national team. When it comes to shooting technique or physical attributes, he was inferior to other strikers and the defenders that defended him. However, he always came out as a winner on the other side.

From the active players, we have to highlight Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski, Luis Suarez, and Karim Benzema. These players are so good at scoring goals that it’s news when they don’t score a goal in a game. They play as classic poachers, converting half-chances or just loose balls to goals. The poachers score so many goals that they become the biggest soccer stars that everybody talks about.


The role of a poacher in soccer may not involve intricate playmaking, but it’s a specialized and valuable position that demands unique skills. The ability to anticipate, react quickly, and finish with clinical precision sets poachers apart as goal-scoring machines. After all, nothing motivates soccer players more than scoring goals. With practice drills and dedication, aspiring players can hone their instincts and become lethal poachers on the field, leaving an indelible mark on the world of soccer, just like the famous names who have come before them.

crop friends stacking hands together

How to get your soccer players to communicate?

I was recently watching a soccer game in a league that allows only players over 40 years old to play. Many of them are still in great shape, but you can see that their coaches have created soccer players to communicate. I could see that they were in the right position all the time and they made the right decisions every single time, in offense and in defense. However, what surprised me the most was that it was louder than when the youth teams are playing. There was no cheering, but many of the decisions were done in a collective manner. I kept hearing “up”, “step”, “drop”, “square”, “line”, “cross”, “man on”, “hold”… They are all one-syllable instructions that they give to each other and often the receiver blindly follows the instruction.

For comparison, I saw a U9 game where the players are usually silent when out of possession, and when attacking they yell “Pass! Pass! Pass!” or “Alex!!” or “What are you doing?!”. It was winter, so many soccer players were too cold to move, let alone talk. I can see that the coach was not happy with the lack of quality communication, but the players didn’t know what to say. The words that the experienced players used were very small vocabulary, but they basically made up a different language for them. Everybody knew exactly what they meant, when to say it, and how to react if they heard it.

The way to coach soccer players to communicate is to teach them the common language of soccer players. A dozen phrases that they need to learn are sufficient and often common across languages. It is a methodology to teach the following phrases in defense: “up”, “step”, “drop” and “hold”. When attacking the magic words are “square”, “line”, “cross” and “back”. The bonus lesson is to coach using the hands so that even if the stadium is full of tens of thousands of screaming fans, the players can understand each other what they need from each other. Teaching the same dozen words for years requires so much patience that the soccer coach deserves a monument.

Defensive Commands for Soccer Players to Communicate

The defense in soccer, and any collective sport, is about teamwork and coordination. Some players are better at defending 1v1, but the secret is to work together. Keeping the formation and defending as a unit means that we are limiting the amount of 1v1s that we need to defend and we force the opponents to get into tight spaces where they will be outnumbered. On other occasions, we force them to stay offside or far away from the goal. For that, they need a way to communicate quickly and synchronously. In soccer, I have been coached and I start coaching with 4 words – Hold, Up, Step, and Drop. They can be called by anybody during a game and often are yelled by multiple people. However, while learning, it is important to dedicate somebody to do that. Usually one of the central defenders does that, but also the keeper can do that, as they see the entire field. Also, this is the reason why center-backs are often captains of their youth teams.


The only way we can hold a compact defensive line is to… well hold it as a line. The way this happens is that the wide defenders stay a step or two ahead of the central defenders, as they have more freedom to be aggressive. However, the line is defined by the central defenders. So, regardless of the opposition, if they say “HOLD”, then everybody holds. The reason why we do this is because we narrow the playing field of the attackers. We want them to be forced to operate in limited space. As the space between the last defender and the goalie is offside, it is not available. If the instruction is to play with a high pressing line, the last defender stays high and gives the hold instruction. Similarly, if the tactics require low block, that’s the place of giving the instruction.


When trying to high press the opponent, it is important to keep the defensive line high. That limits the playing field between our attackers and our defenders. The smaller the playing field, the harder it is for the opponents to keep the ball because we give less space and less time. This means that our defensive line should push high together, step by step. To achieve this, our last defenders yell “STEP”, to push a few steps ahead. The time to do that is when there is a back pass from the opponent, as that is the time when our attackers will also press. The organized pressing is not going to happen on its own, so we need to start with a verbal cue.


The opposite of pressing higher is to drop deeper on the field. You might wonder why would we do that, giving more space to the opposition. Say we are pressing high, but the opponents get through our line of attackers with a dribble or a pass. That might mean that we are in a situation where the opponents might have a numerical advantage or at least equality. In that case, we want to play cautiously and drop closer to the goal and to each other. So, the last defender yells “DROP” to bring the players back closer to the goal. During that time, the attackers and midfielders would sprint back to reinstate the numerical advantage in front of our goal.


The command is for our defender to sprint forward several steps. This one is more often used when we have cleared the ball or regained possession close to our goal. For example, there is a corner and we cleared the ball forward. If all of our defenders sprint out high, then the opponents stay in an offside position. That forces the opponents to pass even further back instead of forward, giving us an advantage. Similarly, if our keeper gets the ball and everybody is in the penalty area, then they might want the players to push high quickly, to get available targets for a long pass and a quick counterattack. At that point, they yell “UP” to their players, while obviously staying close to their goal.

Individual instructions

The 4 instructions above are all collective instructions where one player decides what the entire defensive line should do. However, sometimes we need to help with individual decisions. They cannot be done with individual soccer technical practice, but teamwork. So, often times people say “hold“, “cover” or “delay” when they want players to not try to get the ball, while the team comes back into good defensive shape. Similarly, they would yell “step up” or “challenge” when they want the defender to attempt stealing the ball, while others provide cover.

More advanced instruction is when the attackers do movements that might confuse the defenders. With overlapping or underlapping runs, it is important for players to communicate and not just assume. We have “stay with ball” or “I got ball”, to choose who stays with the ball and who follows the player running. Similarly, it is important to hold the offside line, so sometimes when the opponent does a strong run, we say “leave him/her” to create an offside trap.

Offensive Instructions for Soccer Players to Communicate

When it comes to offensive instructions, it is important to understand that they are less strict. For example, if one player is always in offside, but never gets the ball, then it’s not offside. Or if a player keeps running wide and we want them to be close, it doesn’t have to ruin that attack. The attack is much more forgiving to bad mistakes and lack of communication. That doesn’t mean that teamwork is not needed, but it doesn’t have to be as vocal as defending.

Lines of Passing

The three simple directions to pass are forward, sideways, and backward. Often the opposition is pressing us strongly when we have the ball, but that often means that they don’t press the others. So, communicating clearly can help. For straightforward that we use “LINE”, as simple as that. For sideways pass we use “SQUARE” or “SWITCH”, and if we want a strong pass, usually close to the goal we say “CROSS”. Finally, to pass backward, we yell “BACK” or “DROP”. If we assume that players without the ball have more time to see the field, it makes sense to trust them more than the players with the ball. This is important if we have a player that moves into a particular space, such as a carrilero drifting to the side.

Man On!

A special case when in possession is for us to warn the player with the ball, or about receiving the ball, that there is somebody behind them. Nobody has 360 vision, even if we turn every other second to check. There are always blind spots that good defenders can exploit. So, we yell “MAN-ON” to indicate that somebody is coming from behind, presumably from the blind spot area, trying to get the ball.

Hand Gestures

What I have seen is that kids rarely point to where they want the ball. This is because when they just start passing, they always want it to their feet. However, as they keep playing and run sprints, that changes. There are basically only 3 options – straight to their feet, close to one of the feet, or far in front because they are running in that direction. Also, young players don’t use their hands because they think they give away secrets to the opposition or because they look silly. However, what happens is the pass comes backward and they have to run back for it. Or it comes to their weaker foot and they struggle with it.

Drills for Soccer Players to Communicate

When it comes to defensive communication, there is one main drill to coordinate the communication. They have to hold a line and not engage with the attackers. The attackers keep possession, shifting the ball left and right, back and forward. During that time, one defender gives instructions to the defensive line. We know that those instructions will be STEP, HOLD, DROP, and UP. Just 5 minutes of that on every session and within a month it will become their habit. Don’t get me wrong, they won’t make the right call, but they will keep talking. Our goal is to get the soccer players to communicate and this is how we do that.

For the offensive communication, we turn to our favorite drills – rondos! We will explain the commands, but we have to keep reminding them to use them. When it’s 11v11, it can be overwhelming, but on 6v4 or even classic 4v2 rondo, they can use both the commands and the hand gestures.


Communication is the glue that holds a new and old soccer team together. The players have to talk in a common soccer language. Fortunately, the basic is the same and it’s so simple that they can all learn it within a day. However, to become second nature to them will take some time. Hopefully, we got you a blueprint on how to start your soccer players to communicate and steps on how to get them to become better at it. They’ll get better over time, so give them the tools and let yourself be delightfully surprised.

A person wearing rain boots

Top Rain Gear for Soccer Players [Complete Guide 2024]

Not everybody is lucky to play soccer in perfect weather all year long. Rain and snow are very common environments for soccer players, even at a very early age. When I see kindergarten players in Seattle or Portland freezing in the rain, I love it and hate it at the same time. That’s the only way to create the next US soccer superstars, but we have to not make them hate the sport because of the rain. Games and practices are rarely canceled and players need to mentally adjust to it and be ready. However, it’s not just the psychological readiness – we need the right rain gear for soccer! Staying warm and dry for the duration of the game, while also keeping the flexibility and ability to perform is important. It’s impossible to achieve both with absolute perfection, but let us guide you through what is possible and what we should avoid.

What is the best rain gear for soccer players?

The best rain gear for soccer players is the one that will keep the player dry, warm and not limit the performance in any significant way. Starting from the bottom to the top – the feet have to remain as try as possible in order to keep playing. Appropriate protection through layers is key for soccer players, as the majority of injuries can be caused by not having this protection. Furthermore, covering the hands with light, but waterproof gloves is super beneficial. Finally, while the myth that the majority of the heat escapes through the head is false, covering the head and neck is vital to stay dry and warm. Let us get through the core requirements of what is absolutely needed and what is nice to have.

Cleat Covers by Sleef

If there is one thing that you have to keep dry is the feet. Other things are annoying, but if the feet are wet, then it’s a possibility to get an avoidable injury. Sleef, a company from South Florida (use RONDOCOACH code at checkout for 25% off), has come up with “cleat covers”. While not designed for rain protection, with polyester and spandex only, they work great. We can’t recommend them strongly enough! They cover only the parts that get wet, but the tip of the foot stays uncovered for better control. Also, they provide extra protection against slipping or rolling the ankles, which is more common in rainy weather. The added bonus of keeping the laces tied is particularly useful for the youngest soccer players.

Neck Warmer Dri-Fit by Nike

The neck warmer is needed as much for rainy as it is for cold weather. In fact, I have several of them because I wash them after every practice or game. Other options, like Bula or Adiddas, have been underwhelming in rainy weather. They get wet quickly, often doing a disservice after half an hour. However, it looks like Nike has cracked the code with Dri-Fit and has come up with a material that stays dry the longest. It’s not perfect by any means, but it is exactly what you need for the rainy season. Don’t overthink it, get several pairs and keep your neck warm.

Waterproof Gloves by FanVince

The worst thing when playing soccer in the rain is to get your feet wet. The only thing coming close to it is for the hands to be wet and freezing, even with the rest of the body dry. Instead, find a simple solution by getting water-resistant gloves. They need to be light, so don’t get skiing gloves. I have found that the FanVince works best and I don’t need to swap them even with heavy rain. If you end up getting lighter ones, like Head or Nike, you might need a double pair, as they absorb too much water. Then I need to have two pairs, one for each half.

Water-resistant Beanie by OtterShell

For cold weather, a beanie is a must. However, when there is heavy rain outside, even the best beanie absorbs too much water. Ottershell has been the best I have tried, but I still have to swap it in heavy rain. It also depends a lot on your preference. As I have a fair amount of hair, although much less thick over time, keeping it dry is important, but my head is protected anyway. For players with much longer hair, it can really add to the weight of the head when it’s wet. Finding the right balance is important, so just pick one – Ottershell is our preference, but if you have another one already, just stick with that.

Long Sleeve Base Layer by Under Armour

Layers, layers, layers! Staying warm and dry is all about layers. And nobody is doing that better than Under Armour. They are not really focused on soccer, even though they have cleats and clothes. However, they are best when it comes to base layers for team sports. If you live in super cold areas, you can look for skiing/snowboarding base layers, but usually, it’s too much. Instead, get several of the UA long-sleeve base layers, just like you would use an extra t-shirt for layering. We like to have matching colors with the uniform, but kids like to have fun and mix gear colors to stand out from time to time.

Leg Sleeves by Tough Outdoors

For a long period of time, I thought that the way to go is leggings. The issue is that they took away from my flexibility and didn’t really add any stability or protection. I decided to try leg sleeves instead, as a friend of mine suggested. They are a game changer! I use them both to keep my shinguards in and to keep me dry and warm when it’s raining or cold. In fact, I even tried wearing them when skiing and snowboarding and they are great on very cold days. They also provide solid support, so I feel much better putting on hard tackles when wearing them. They are a must in my rainy gear now!

Decision time

I hope this is a good guide on the rain gear for soccer that you need to stay dry and warm. Whether you are playing to be remembered as the best soccer player ever or just want to avoid getting sick while being on the bench most of the game, you have to have a plan for it. There are variations that you might want to try that fit your preference. Removing one of them or picking different materials can be a great option, depending on the weather and what makes you feel good. It took me some time to pick my favorite items and I am sure I will change them as the technology improves. I am planning to test out several more items this winter and keep you posted!

11v11 soccer formation 4-3-3 by Rondo Coach Formation Tool

Modern Soccer Formation (The Masterminds Default To 4-3-3)

Modern soccer is fun to watch, fun to play and it’s a spectacle that is driven by passion. However, at times it can be more boring than watching paint dry. When watching closely even teams battling in the knockout phase for a major trophy, it looks more like a chess match. They rarely attack with a numerical advantage, close all their openings, and generally wait for the other team to make a mistake. When it works out, the coach is praised for their tactical brilliance and how they picked the soccer formation to use. When the team loses, the coach is blamed for strategic mistakes and not getting the best out of the team.

The reality is that teams practice one main formation and system of play. When that system is not appropriate against certain opponents, it causes big headaches. For example, a team might want to play possession-based soccer and will do everything in their power to do so. However, if they try to do that against a team that also plays with lots of possession, but also have objectively better players, or play against a team that is superb in pressing them, then that will not work well. Having said that, we use the formation as a rough guide on how to shape up. We maintain the position of the players, even if the roles are different.

What is the best soccer formation?

While there is no guarantee to bring success to every team and against every opponent, the best soccer formation in the 21st century is the 4-3-3 formation, with variations of 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-2-3. Over the years the popularity of the formations has varied. However, the idea of lining up with 4 defenders, 3 central midfielders, two wingers, and one striker has remained. We pick this formation because of the fluidity to adapt to situations. Sometimes, we add more attackers by pushing the wide defenders forward and midfielders to attack into the box. Similarly, wingers can become midfielders in a 4-5-1 formation, and holding midfielders can drop in defense to create a defensive 5-4-1. Overall, it is the formation that experts in the field are most likely to use today.

Because of the versatility and the options to play different roles, the formation is also perfect for coaching youth teams. For example, the players can learn to play in the defensive lines of 3, 4, or 5 players, depending on the instructions of the defenders and the midfielders. We can play with two pivots or a single pivot, or even some hybrid with inverted full-backs. The role of the striker can vary significantly – from nomadic target man to false nine or a trequartista. Furthermore, as we train young players in these formations, they have become more knowledgeable and familiar with them. Then going to the professional level is easier when the basis is there.

What does the 4-3-3 soccer formation look like?

The fundamental definition of the 4-3-3 formation is to have 4 defenders, 3 central midfielders, 2 wingers, and 1 striker. In modern soccer, this has become the standard on how teams defend to bring structure and compactness. This structure should condense the middle of the pitch, creating a semi-circle boundary protection for the goalkeeper. This forces the opponents to attack from the flanks or far from the goal, with little chance of getting into situations with a clean shot on goal.

The attacking formation can change significantly to account for quality advantages that the players have over their opponents and then let the players use creativity to have a shot and score. However, the defending formation must be more rigid and collectively get the numerical advantage in the most critical areas closest to the goal.

4-3-3 Soccer Formation Attack variations

Defenders – the wall of the 4-3-3 soccer formation

Usually, the defenders are in a flat line when defending, often creating offside traps. In attack, the wide defenders attack up the field on their side when the ball is on their side. For the central defender, the role is usually straightforward. They defend and distribute the ball sideways and forward. They can’t allow mistakes, as that would be an opportunity for a goal. In an ideal partnership, one defender would be the aggressor, trying to mark the striker tightly. In that case, the other defender will provide cover and security.

For particularly talented wingbacks, it is normal to push all the way to the other goal. In the last few decades, players like Daniel Alves, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Roberto Carlos, and Marcelo, have shown amazing results in attacking as wide defenders. However, we have seen other tactical plans where the preference is for an inverted full-back. This means that the wide defender comes to the center of the field and acts as an additional pivot. In recent years, Zinchenko has done that both in Arsenal and Man City. Similarly, a central defender can do the same in a different system. This was something new that John Stones did for Man City’s legendary treble season 22/23.

Midfielders – the heart of 4-3-3

The most traditional way of thinking about the central midfielders are 6, 8, and 10. The holding midfielder, also called #6 or pivot, has primarily defensive responsibility and just simple passes that retain possession. The attacking midfielder, also known as the #10 or the playmaker, is the creative outlet of the team with fewer defensive tasks. Finally, the box-to-box midfielder, referred to as the #8, is a hybrid of the two and has the responsibility of bringing balance to the team. When the team needs to protect the goal, the role can instantly change to a double pivot, to support the defense. When chasing an equalizer, the player pushes up with attacking duties in mind. Positional awareness and versatility are the key attributes of this player.

Attackers – the creativity of the attacking 3

There are two main positions to be analyzed here – wingers and strikers. The wingers can be classic wingers, staying up and wide. They often get few touches with the ball but are usually very fast and clinical in the opposition’s half. However, if the team plays with fullbacks that do overlapping runs, then these players act as inverted wingers, cutting into the middle of the pitch. Sometimes they are attacking the half-spaces, other times they drop back or push behind the defense. It is often hard to get the mindset of a winger right in their youth. It requires a balance of patience to wait for the ball, combined with speed and aggressiveness when they get the ball.

On the other hand, the rarity of a quality striker is what makes them even more in demand. There are many flavors of them. Some are big and strong, like Lukaku or Haaland, known as the target man. They hold the ball high and shoot from a cross or a pass. Others are very technical, like Messi and Firmino, often dropping to help the midfield and leave space for the wingers to run behind the defense. We often call them “false nine”. Then there is the classic 9, like Lewandowski and Benzema, who are adaptable, but are there primarily to score the total. There is more than one way to being a good striker, but usually, it is because of one or more characteristics of the players are dominant compared to others.

The Fluidity of the Attacking Formation vs. the Strictness of the Defense

The key to the 4-3-3 formation is to provide stability and structure in defense while giving options in offense. We keep the defensive shape strict and only change it if there is a particular need for it. The attacking shape must be fluid. That also gives the opportunity to adjust based on the advantages and disadvantages of the opponents.

Disadvantages of the 4-3-3

We must not pretend that there are no disadvantages to the 4-3-3. Statistically speaking, most soccer teams don’t play this formation. When playing against two attackers, like 3-5-2, it can lead to confusion in the defense. Say both central defenders are pinned by the strikers, and the opponent’s wingers push against the fullbacks. Then, we get into too many 1:1 situations. Ideally, we would shift whenever the ball goes side to side or we would drop the holding midfielder back as the extra defender. We need to practice this, in order to work.

Another disadvantage is when playing against one striker, like 4-5-1, attacking with 3 defenders in the back can give the opponents a numerical advantage and not allow chances. This usually means that often we need to make both fullbacks to push forward. They can do overlapping runs or invert to the middle. Nevertheless, we cannot allow for a significant numerical advantage of the opponents.

4v4 Formation by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
8v8 Soccer Formation 2-4-1
9v9 soccer formation 2-3-2-1 by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
6v6 Soccer Formation 2-1-2
7v7 soccer formation 2-3-1 by Rondo Coach Formation Tool
4v2 Rondo, Soccer Rondo Series

4v2 Rondo [Complete Guide with Variations]

Now that we have mastered the 4v1 rondo and the 5v2 rondo, it’s time to move to the next step. The 4v2 rondo is the holy grail of rondos. It’s great for warming up and for skills, and it gives the right amount of decision-making opportunities. The expectation is to spend about a month on variations of the 5v2 before moving to the 4v2 rondo. One interesting rule to stimulate this transition is to count skipping the middle attacker as two points. The right pass is played, but the middle attacker needs to just skip the ball. This is very fun for the players and they have fun with it. Introduce this after 5v2 can keep the ball for 10 passes or more.

Why do the 4v2 rondo?

The 4v2 rondo is the core of soccer rondos. The reason for that is that when playing possession, the player with the ball mostly has 3 players around them to pass to. Now, with two defending players blocking passes, in theory, there should always be one option available. This also means that lost possession requires a mistake by the attackers, either technical or in their decision. We can vary the size of the allowed area or add additional rules, such as one-touch or two-touch only. However, this rondo is practiced from the early beginners all the way to the best teams in the world.


The setup is very simple – two defenders in the middle and 4 attackers on each side of the square. The rules have not changed for anybody and the game variations are similar to the 4v1. Initially, the player in the middle will block the far pass, so the first pass will always be to the side. At this point, the players will know the rules and will require with very few instructions. Also, they will know what you are asking from them, such as receiving with their back feet and opening up without the ball.

Variations of 4v2 rondo

There are many variations that we can do for the 4v2 rondo. We can definitely do similar things to what we’ve done, such as the winger target rondo or the throw-in rondo. We will set the players in situations to be under the right amount of pressure and situations in which they will have to adapt to the challenges. We will have more rondo lessons, such as the double rondo or the transitional rondo. Many of them are based on the 4v2 rondo, which is why it needs to be natural for the players before moving to more complex systems.


Make the field narrow, say 2:3 ratio, where wingers play on the longer sides. They already did this for 4v1 and even 5v2, but when having only one option to pass, it will be much harder for the players. To make it more interesting, encourage extra points for transitioning the ball from two shorter sides. That way the defenders will definitely stay compact in the middle. Remember that not only the attackers learn in rondos, but also the defenders.

Throw in

You have already done the throw-in with the rondos at 5v2. Now, we remove one option for the first receiver. That might also mean that they would have to do one touch sometimes and two touches other times, depending on the situation. Earlier there were almost always options for one touch. This time we have a more realistic real-game representation. Also, with 2 defenders, it is more likely that the thrower will be called for a foul throw. You, as a coach, can still call it, but the players will do that themselves over time.

4v2 Transition Rondo

If your players have reached a point when they can perform well in a 4v2 rondo, it’s time to move to a more complex rondo. The traditional 4v2 rondo can have many stops and breaks. What you want instead is a continuous flow between attacking and defending. The transition 4v2 rondo achieves that with two players constantly overloading to achieve numerical superiority. In a simple setup, the players keep possession with 4 players, against 2. As soon as they lose possession, two of them drop out, and the new team in possession gains two players for overloading. This constant flow can be physically challenging, so it’s a good drill for stamina. More importantly, it’s exactly now a game would look like, with possession changing regularly. I recommend it from a very young age, as early as U10, all the way to the professional level.


No Opponents Rondo

Introduction to rondos with 3v0 and 4v0. Coaching passing, receiving, and the concept of “backfoot”.

First opponent

Introduce an opponent in the rondo. Create the need to move off the ball and think of passing lanes.

Increase intensity

Limit one passing option, and improve decision-making. Put pass-and-go into practice. Introduce a transition rondo to 5v3.

Increase complexity

Introduce team pressing of two players. Coach the central midfielder for the first time.

Pro Rondo

The rondo that pros play. Teaching to split the opponents with the right weight of the pass.

Positional play

All variations of the complex rondos before transitioning into positional play and game scenarios.