An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Mark Szabo, boys soccer program head

Since arriving at Lakeside a long time ago, I have tried to continue the historical success that the program had established. I have had some fantastic (like, really fantastic, ie. ELITE) players come through our program. And I have been lucky to have fantastic administrators and soccer staff that have helped create a situation that allows everyone to have fun and find success!

Historically, from my playing days on, I have had a primarily defensive mind when I am on the field. I am not naïve about how to play offense, and I definitely demand that our attackers control their controllables (effort, discipline, teamwork), but I have figured out that Lakeside Lions soccer has the most success when the attackers have freedom and the team plays with a few basic principles when attacking.

These principles are not by any means our little secret, and are actually the principles of attack that you can find in any coaching manual or course around the world. Our magical formula is a mixture of the principles, special players in our program, and staying out the way to allow those special players to fail their way to success.

The five attacking principles of soccer, in order from least to most important:

  1. Width:  Opposing defenses will try to stay compact and keep more defenders around the ball than we have attackers. Having players that keep width on both sides of the field force opponents to be aware of that. This doesn’t allow them to swarm to the area around the ball quite as much, which gives us more time and options with the ball.
  2. Support:  Knowing that there is a teammate to support you (allowing you to get rid of the ball with a simple pass into a safer, less pressured area) gives attackers the confidence to try things and take chances.
  3. Mobility:  This is the key to making it difficult for a defense to get organized and to really shut down a space. Mobility refers to movement of both players and the ball, and the faster the better. Player movement forces defenses to make decisions and try to adjust. Movement doesn’t need to be in a certain direction (can be into attacking spaces, safer defensive spaces, or wider spaces) because every movement has the chance to force a defense to shift and possibly make a mistake. Mobility with the ball is also important. Keeping it moving quickly so that the defense doesn’t have a focal point will also lead to opportunities for a defense to make a mistake.
  4. Creativity:  As we start moving teams around and forcing them to make mistakes, figuring out different ways to punish them becomes important. There are many ways to get past defenders, and the best players figure out different ways to accomplish that task on the fly. We trust our attackers to take chances and be creative, knowing the outcome can be a positive for the team.
  5. Penetration:  This is what all the other principles lead up to. Getting beyond a defender, a defensive line, or even the goalie, to score a goal.

As a coach, I try to guide the team to understand what is needed to have success in each of these principles. We talk about them, watch video, and run trainings to teach and reinforce them. Then I try to stay out of the way (maybe a reminder here or there) and allow the team to solve the problems that opponents pose…  and then watch in awe as special players help guide the team on to magical victories.

Stay tuned for part 2: how we play defense.

Stay safe and healthy everyone! And GO LIONS!

Follow Lakeside boys soccer on Twitter at @LakesideLionsFC.