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The value of an early cross is immeasurable.  The norm for most players is to take the ball to the end line and then whip it into the box.  To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with this approach – it actually works very well.  But that being said, players put their heads down and don’t even think about putting an early ball in because they’re focused on getting to the end line before they make any further decisions.  the problem with this is you are not seeing potential runs and openings being made by your teammates.  I am going to explain when to use the early cross and why to use it.  Use it correctly and you will create more scoring chances for your team than you could have ever imagined.

What is an early cross?

An early cross is a play where the ball is crossed much before the end line or anywhere near the end line.  In fact, it will happen so early that most defenders won’t even anticipate a cross coming in.  The distance in which this cross takes place is usually in line with the 18-yard box and further out.  Refer to the red circles representing the area in which these crosses take place:

Why is the early cross a good idea?

The early cross is extremely difficult to deal with as a defender.  When you are tracking backwards, not only do you have to cover your opponent, but you have to keep an eye on the ball.  When early balls are played in, you have an extremely difficult time covering both.  When players cross from the end line, however, the entire defensive unit is usually back and have established their positions.  At this point it is very easy to clear the ball away while making sure you have your opponent covered.  If you are running back, trying to clear the ball effectively is very difficult.  Often times the defender will have no choice but to push it out for a corner kick because of his/her momentum, or even have a bad clearence that results in a chance on goal.

While it is difficult for defenders to deal with, it is absolutely ideal for forwards.  Many forwards get frustrated with the balls that come in from the end line because at that point in time they have stopped their run and and just waiting for the ball to come in.  With an early cross, players can use their momentum and run onto a ball.  Running onto a ball is a lot more dangerous than having to generate your own power off the spot.  On top of all this, as I hinted at before, when forwards are making these runs, defenders have a difficult time keeping track of exactly where they are.  As a result, forwards will often be open for a great opportunity on net.

How should the early cross come in?

The early cross sould either be a whipping ball in along the ground, or a ball in the air looking to meet the head/foot of the oncoming attacker.  If the person crossing the ball can learn this technique effectively, your team will experience more chances and more goals – I guarantee it.

One Comment

  • Match says:

    I have always thought an early cross is the best way to confuse an opponents defense. Someone once said to me there is a 2% chance of scoring from a typical cross. I think this is significantly increased when you put the ball in early. I have also noticed more recently teams are starting to adopt this approach and mix it up.

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