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Soccer, by nature, is a players’ game.

With no timeouts to stop the action, coaches must get their message across before the game begins or at halftime, and hope their players recognize and adjust on the field. One of the great things about the beautiful game is that it allows for the creativity of the players to come through. While some coaches may instruct from the sidelines, the players are not confined to rigid sets and plays.

While the free-flowing fluidity of soccer is one of its most appealing aspects, coaches must not forget that set plays in dead ball situations can just as easily turn into great goal-scoring opportunities.

Whether it’s a free kick in the field or a corner kick, implementing a variety of “plays” for your team is essential to creating dangerous scoring chances.

Let’s start with your options from a corner kick. Whether the defense opts for zonal or man-to-man marking, there are a variety of ways to spring players free. Bringing a player toward the flag for a short corner (if unmarked) or the illusion of a short corner (to draw a defender out and create more space in the box) is a good opening run. If you can play a short corner that may allow for a two on one set-up on the wing and open up a different angle for a cross. Another variation to the short corner is after making the initial pass, a second pass is made to the top corner of the box. While this is going on, the player who took the corner can be making a back door run along the end line, looking for a pass. I witnessed this very play at a Kansas City Wizards game and the defense was caught off-guard by the variation in the corner kick.

If it is a traditional corner kick, make sure your players have at least three different plays they can use. All this has to be is a variation of their runs into the box. The kick taker will also need to know what runs are being made so that they can direct the ball to the most dangerous area of the box. Mixing up runs and assignments will make sure the defense never gets comfortable defending corners against your team.

Now moving out to the field, unless you have David Beckham on your team, your players will not be bending shots over and around the walls blocking the goal. So this means your free kicks need some variety and innovation. Again creating varying runs for balls into the box is critical. But there are other ways to around a wall and create a shot or get in a better position to deliver a ball into a dangerous area. Like the short corner, a variation of a give-and-go can be used to get behind a wall. Also, setting up two players over the ball and faking a shot is a good way to create cracks and space in a wall. Don’t forget the wall doesn’t just have to be composed of the defense. Put one of your players in or around the wall. Not only does it create a distraction, but this player can also be used as an impediment if the ball is played off to the side and the wall charges.

While free kicks and corner kicks usually create the best scoring chances in dead ball situations, don’t forget to mix up your throw-ins as well. While not necessarily creating a scoring chance, a good throw-in allows you to maintain possession and build an attack. Don’t just let your team wait for a throw standing in one place. The biggest key is to get them moving. Next, teach them how to open up space, again with a variety of runs. These can be crossing runs or as simple as leaving a space to open it up for a teammate.

There are so many options on dead-ball situations that you should not let yourself or your team get stuck repeating the same things. Add a little structure, and creativity, to your team’s set pieces and watch as scoring opportunities open up.


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