D5. DEFENDING – 2nd and 3rd Defender

D5. DEFENDING – 2nd and 3rd Defender 1hr 45min
Quote of the Session: “Good players practice till’ they get it right… great players practice till’ they never get it wrong.”Anonymous
Warm Up/Agility 10 mins
Small Sided Game 15 mins
3 v 3 + 3, 2 GK Defending

  • To encourage front players to organize defensively to regain possession and create goal-scoring opportunities.


  • Three 48’ wide grids; 
  • two end-zone grids of about 20’ and a central grid of about 15’. 
  • Three teams of three players in different bib colors 
  • Two goalkeepers. 
Coaching Points

  • Pressure on the ball: directing play towards covering teammate to make play predictable. 
  • Cover player: read pressuring teammate movement early on and stay connected. 
  • Third player: anticipate through pass and intercept; otherwise initiate pressure on opposite grid.

  • Players in end-zones: objective is to connect 5 passes prior to switching the ball (on the ground) to the opposite grid. 
  • Players in central zone: objective is to organize defensively to capture the ball and finish with a shot in goal. Defend with two players with one remaining in the middle grid to intercept through passes to opposite grid. 
  • Intervals: 2-3 minutes before switching central players.


  • Play with four players in each team increasing the grid width as necessary.
Technical/Tactical 50 mins
2v2 Defending (Tight & Loose Marking)

  • Set-up area 3x15m
  • Divide players into 2 equal groups and position them as shown
  • 2 GKs OR 1 GK
  • 2 Goals OR 1 Goal
image Coaching Points

  • 1v1 coaching
  • Tight marking near the ball; loose marking away from the ball
  • See player you’re marking AND the ball
  • Distance from player your marking vs. amount of space you can cover

The play begins when the Goalkeeper throws the ball to one of the white players by the side of the opposite goal. That player and a second teammate try to combine and score against that Goalkeeper. As the ball is traveling from the Goalkeeper’s throw two red players close down their opponents and try to prevent the white players from scoring. If they win the ball they may try and score in the white team’s goal. When a goal is scored or the ball goes out of play the exercise restarts with the other Goalkeeper throwing the ball to the next two reds in line and the next two white players have to defend. This process continues in both directions.


  • Add a 3rd attacker and after a while a 3rd defender
1st, 2nd and 3rd Defenders Working Together – Progression 2
The last step in this defensive progression requires a field set up like the diagram on tge right.

  • The end lines are 30 yards long and the side lines are 40 yards long. 
  • On each end line are three goals (each are 3 yards wide). 
  • Two teams of three participate in this drill with each team attacking an end line.
Since they are allowed to score in any of the three goals, it requires quick shifting and support. All three players have to defend all three goals so the shifting must be done in unison and quite quickly. The neat thing about all of these drills is that while they are working on defensive positioning, they also work on so many other things such as conditioning and offensive spacing. The next step in this progression is to remove the 3 goals on each end line. Now the rule is that a goal can be scored anywhere on the end line with the one requirement being that the ball must be stopped on the end line by the offensive team in order for the goal to be counted. By expanding the area that the defense has to protect, it forces them to concentrate on getting behind the ball (or get scored upon). You can revert to the rule from an earlier drill and if a team scores a goal, they retain possession of the ball and now attack the other end line. 
The last step in this progression is to add two, full-sized goals and keepers and simply play soccer with the emphasis on getting behind the ball. By reminding the players how each of these drills tie together, they should be able to concentrate on getting behind the ball and maintaining proper defensive shape.
Small Sided Game 30 mins
  • Two teams with goalkeepers.
  • Playing field of 40x20m
  • One goal at each end
Regular play with minimal coach intervention.

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