3 Steps to Stopping a Counter Attack

by Ivan Bobanovic | Last updated

Your team is at the opponent’s goal and is about to score a goal.  A lot of players commit because the situation looks promising.  Suddenly, their goalie grabs the ball and launches the ball down field.  Uh oh…it is a counter attack.  You begin to backtrack and realize that you and your other defender are the only two players back while they attack with 3…and here comes the 4th. What do you do?

There is a way to slow down a fast break – maybe even completely shut it down – and it has almost nothing to do with winning the ball.

There are three steps that, if followed, will shut down a counter-attack almost every single time.  The key is not to stop the fast break, but rather to slow it down.  If you can slow the counter attack down just enough for more of your players to come back, you have done your job.

1.  As a defender, whether you are alone or with a teammate, the first thing you should try to do is force the player with the ball to one side of the field; ideally to the sidelines.  Angle your body and force the player wide. Give her no other option.

The reason you angle your body when you defend – and not square up – is because you want to force the player in one direction, but also be prepared to take off running at any time if the opponent makes a move or a pass.  Standing square with your shoulders parallel to the opponent requires much more time to turn and run.  By the time you turn around and begin your run, the opponent will have one or two steps on you, and that is all that is needed to create a play or score a goal. Just one step.

2.  A mistake many players make is they allow the opponent to work their way inside the 18 yard box.  Stopping a player inside the 18 yard box is difficult and dangerous.  It is dangerous because any foul will result in a penalty.  This is why it is so important to push your opponent wide early and and as far away from the box as possible. Remember, you are not trying to stop the counter attack; you are trying to create more time so your team can track back.

When forcing a player wide with your angled stance, make the opening so appealing that they will have no other choice but to go that way. Understand that you are not creating an open lane, you are creating a trap.  If the opponent is pushed to one side, you can easily corner the opponent and attack them.

3.  If the opponent comes directly at you with the ball, jockey him. What does that mean? That means you never, ever, lunge for the ball.  You are the last line of defense, if the ball gets by you, it is a breakaway.  Keep a distance from the opponent of 1-2 steps and just slow her down.  Cut off passing lanes and trust that your goalie will make a save if need be.

Remember:

    • Set your body up on an angle and force the opponent to the sidelines
    • Slow the pace down by dictating play with your pace – give your team enough time to get back on defense
    • Do not try to make a play on the ball, just jockey
    • Cut off shooting lanes and trust your goalie

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