Your team scores 2 goals and it is 2-0 at halftime. You have completely dominated the game up to this point and you can’t help but think the win is penciled in. The coach sits everyone down at halftime and touches on some good characteristics of the half but is very clear in saying that 2-0 is a dangerous score. “Don’t get comfortable, the game isn’t over” is what you will usually hear from a coach in this situation, “and don’t let them score a quick goal.”
As players we sit there and we think ya, ya, don’t worry we got this one in the bag, just relax. The second half begins and you feel at ease…I mean why shouldn’t you, it’s 2-0!
Goal. What?….they just scored, it’s 2-1. Uh oh. The momentum has completely shifted into your opponents end and you can’t help but feel as though you are on your heels. Your opponent ains confidence and it shows because they are completely outplaying you at this point. Panic somewhat sets in and the entire team seems to be scrambling. Before you know it it’s 2-2.
The reason 2-0 is such a dangerous score is because it feels as though the game is over, but one goal has the other team back into it. Now only trailing by one goal, the opponent is fired up and hunting for another goal while your team is stunned wondering where that dominance was from the first half. You begin to sit further back into your formation trying to defend the lead as opposed to increase the lead.
It’s very interesting how this score-line will completely change the psychology and mindset of a team. When it becomes 2-1, suddenly the opponent is controlling the game and mentally more focused while your team is aimlessly defending a lead. It’s almost inevitable, no matter how good or bad your team is, when a 2 goal lead is diminished to a 1 goal lead, anxiety kicks in. Why…why does it always have to be this way? This isn’t only true in soccer, this is true in every sport.
So how do you avoid becoming victim to the trap of losing a 2-0 goal lead and losing control of the game?
Although the saying goes it isn’t how you start, but how you finish, in this case it couldn’t be any more wrong. The first ten minutes of the second half are potentially the 10 most important minutes of the game in this situation. The opponent is looking to quickly get back into the game, however this is when they are also most vulnerable to concede a goal. If you are too comfortable or not playing with enough intensity, they will score goals faster than you can tie your shoe.
These first ten minutes is when you need to either come together as a defensive unit and weather the storm or put together an effort to back them up into their end via offense. Another tactical option is to develop a base to attack and catch the opponent on the counter attack while they are committing players and bodies.
Let’s think of boxing for a moment. Do you know when a boxer is most vulnerable? A boxer is most vulnerable when he is throwing a punch – when he is attacking. It is in this moment that the other boxer – if the punch can be absorbed or avoided – can strike as the entire face and frame is wide open for a hit. Similarly in soccer, when the other team is attacking for a goal it will have gaps and openings everywhere to exploit. Like in boxing though, if you ease up for even a second, you will get knocked out – a goal will be scored.
Those first ten minutes are so crucial. The entire team needs to be on the same page and have the same urgency to maintain control of the game. If your team is able to score in the first 10 minutes and make the score 3-0, or weather the compulsive attack, then the game takes on a different shape.
When leading by 2 goals, here are some key tips to maintain that lead:
- Obtain possession of the ball and move it around the field. Make the other team chase the ball and tire themselves out. This is a dangerous tactic nonetheless as one bad pass will lead to a goal
- Slow the game down. Instead of playing at the level of the opponent and playing urgent soccer; bring calm to the game. Take you time on throw-ins, goal kicks, free kicks and etc. Slowing the game down will completely kill the momentum the other team is trying to build.
- Prepare yourself and your team mentally for a battle. The game is 90 minutes and needs to be played to the end.