Coaching Association of Canada

Dick Howard, ChPC - Soccer

Summer of Soccer Kickoff: Technical Tips

Part 1 - TECHNICAL | Part 2 - TACTICAL

Canada is getting ready for a summer of soccer and we want coaches on pitches across the country to benefit just as much as the fans in the stands. Dick Howard, a FIFA Technical Advisor, and former Canadian Soccer Association Technical Director and national team coach, will be sharing his knowledge of the game on a regular basis throughout this summer of soccer. Enjoy it!


1. The first touch control and peripheral vision of the talented players. The ability to play the ball with one or more touches is influenced by a player’s awareness of their surroundings. Top players think two or three moves ahead of their receiving the ball especially in and around the penalty area.

2. One versus one is the basic element in the game. The team that wins most of these encounters in attack and defense usually wins the match. Top players not only have the ability to beat defenders but also have the technical skills to win the ball back in a defending role. It is especially relevant with regards to individual actions in and around the opponent’s penalty area.

3. The modern game and recent rule changes have placed increased demands on the goalkeeper to act more and more as an outfield player. Advanced starting positions enable them to act as a sweeper-keeper and play the ball with the head or feet outside the penalty area. Top goalkeepers are also both confident and competent in playing the ball with either foot or the head, following a pass back from a fellow defender. Statistics even show that the modern goalkeeper sometimes will play the ball more with the feet than the hands in a game.

Part 2 - TACTICAL:

1. 4-2-3-1 / 3-5-2 /4-4-2??? The top teams tend to have flexible systems of play in adjusting to game situations with players well aware of their roles and responsibilities in both attack and defence. Teams may be well organized with a definite team shape but this may change in the course of a game especially with the introduction of substitute players who have to integrate immediately into the tactical shape of the team. Interesting to note the increasing importance of fullbacks in flank play and of holding midfielders acting as screens in front of central defenders.

2. Transition play can often be the difference between victory and defeat. The “magic moment” is a key factor in the modern game. This is when the ball is recovered and a fast counter attack results either with an individual run , 2-3 quick passes or a long ball played behind the defence. Top teams also use fast “pressing” techniques following loss of possession in order to win the ball as soon as possible preferably close to goal in the attacking third of the field.

3. Attention to detail with regards to set plays will always be an important factor in the game. It resulted in 22% of all the goals scored in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. A team must always be well organized in attack and defence for corner kicks and free kicks in and around the penalty area. Specialist players can be a real asset to a team especially for free kicks across the top of the penalty area as well as for the all-important penalty kicks. Throw-ins in the attacking third of the field as well as kick offs can also be used to good effect to create goal scoring opportunities.