Soccer Coaching & Consulting

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Corner Kick Defense: My Soccer Restart Books Available on


Defensive Corner Kick Defense: 

There is always a debate if zonal marking or man to man is better for corner kick defending.  I personally like a hybrid model where all attackers are man marked but 3 defenders are marking space.  In this picture the 5 attackers at the back of the box are marked by the 5 defenders.  There are 2 blue defenders located on top of the 6 yard box marking space (zonal defending) and 1 defender covering the inside post.  If the attacking team try a short corner with 2 players the blue team would send 2 of the zonal marking players to defend 2v2 – however the blue defender marking the inside post would stay and block any ball driven into the near post. The defensive corner kick defense was used by Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho.

The problem with an all zone marking corner kick defense is that attackers can get a running start into the zones and often out jump, out run and better time the incoming cross.  I noticed the US Women’s National Team is now using an all zonal marking system on corners this world cup.  It will be interesting to see how it holds up in the semi-finals against Germany!

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Training The Back “4” & Midfield: Unit Defending


I actually played in this exercise today and really enjoyed it.  The purple team is defending 4 small goals across 55 yard wide field that is 40 yards in length.  The back “4” must shift as a unit and the midfield “4” as well in order to keep the defensive shape compact.  Notice in the picture the right center midfielder is dropped into the gap between the midfield line and the back line.  This makes it harder for the attacking team to exploit space in that dangerous area of the field.  If the ball was on the left side for the yellow team the – the left purple center midfielder would drop into the gap.  It is important for the back “4” to take control and show leadership by commanding the team to “shift left or right”, “step”, “drop” or “hold”.  After 10 minutes rotate the sides so both teams have the opportunity to score on the 4 small goals.  Even though it is a unit defending drill the coach can still work on the team with the ball & what they can do to break the defending team down.  As a player today I enjoyed this session a lot and especially enjoyed organizing the team from the back forward – it reminded me of my playing days!

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Barcelona “3” Man Attacking Pattern: From My Book Train Like Barcelona. Play Like Barcelona.


Train Like Barcelona. Play Like Barcelona

Exercise #23

3 Player Crossing & Finishing

Grid: Attacking 1/3

Players: 3-9 Players + Keeper

Instructions & Key Points:

This is a basic crossing and finishing pattern working on the movement of the 3 attacking players. I recommend using 9 players so each group of 3 gets sufficient rest in between repetitions. Key Points: The coordination and timing of the runs in relation to the cross, firmness of passing & crossing, accuracy of pass and cross, placement of the finishing touch/strike. Barcelona attackers are trained to dribble to the end line and then cross the ball on an angle back across the near post. The attacking players know this so they have one runner crash near post with the other 45 degrees back covering the middle to back post.

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Barcelona Rondo Training Explained! Be Sure To Get My New Book “Train Like Barcelona. Play Like Barcelona.” at

Train Like Barcelona. Play Like Barcelona

Rondo Variations

Instructions & Key Points:

Barcelona use rondo as a fundamental training exercise to develop their possession style of play.

“Everything that goes on in a match, except shooting, you can do in a rondo. The competitive aspect, fighting to make space, what to do when in possession and what to do when you haven’t got the ball, how to play ‘one touch’ soccer, how to counteract the tight marking and how to win the ball back.”

Johan Cruyff (Legendary player for FC Barcelona and Holland)

Xavi, Barca’s midfielder, says: ”It’s all about rondos. Rondo, rondo, rondo. Every. Single. Day. It’s the best exercise there is. You learn responsibility and not to lose the ball. If you lose the ball, you go in the middle. Pum-pum-pum-pum, always one touch. If you go in the middle, it’s humiliating, the rest applaud and laugh at you.”

Xavi (One of the best midfielders in FC Barcelona and Spain’s history)

Rondo Defined:

If I had to define “Rondo” it would be as follows. Rondo is a training game in which the group who is possession has a numerical advantage.   Rondo can be as little as 3 v 1 to 10 v 2 over another group of players. The objective of the group in possession is to keep the ball away from the defenders, while the defenders objective is to win the ball.   Rondo is different than other possession drills because the players take up a pre-set space in the circle rather than roaming all over the place. Many possession drills will have players move to spaces that relate more to the movements of a regular game.

Rondos develop players in the following ways:

Decision Making & Number of Touches: Players need to think very quickly in rondo as the ball can move very fast. Being a step ahead and having good vision is required to maintain possession. The number of touches a player gets in rondo is high. In a typical 11 v 11 game players touch the ball between 20 and 40 times. In rondo they do that in 5 minutes.

Technique, Mobility & Agility: In order to keep possession the players must have a good level of technical ability. Pepe Guardiola the former FC Barcelona Coach would talk about playing on the edge your technical ability, while still maintaining possession with solid technique. The faster the ball moves in rondo the faster the player needs to do everything. That includes being balanced, mobile, quick, agile, technical and make quick decisions.

Teamwork and Collective Understanding: Rondo is not an individual game. It requires teamwork to possess the ball. It also requires teamwork of the defending players to win the ball back. Understanding between the players is enhanced as they begin to work as one unit.

Problem Solving & Creativity: Problem solving in soccer is the name of the game! Can players find solutions to break down the defense? Rondo tests the player’s ability to problem solve the entire time. Being creative can often help break down the defense.

Competition: Rondo is an enjoyable fun environment that creates an atmosphere of healthy competition. Competition pushes players to train at higher intensities and elevate their game.

Is Rondo An Overnight Fast Track to Success?

It is very important to understand that Rondo does not build skill overnight. In fact, the midfielder Xavi explains that the secret to rondo is not found out in one week, one month or one year. You get more and more out of rondo the more you train rondo. Players have to hit certain levels of skill to fully reap all the benefits of rondo and that can literally take years. At FC Barcelona players normally do between 1,500 and 1,800 hours of rondo from age 6 to 20. Deliberate practice states that 80% of the training should focus on 20% of the most important skills. It is obvious that Barcelona places a very high value on rondo. I understand that not many teams can play like Barcelona but the ability to possess the ball in tight spaces against high intensity opponents can be useful for any team.

Here are key terms to remember when playing rondo:

First Line Break/Pass – pass the person next to you. Easiest pass to make in rondo. Does not require a wide range of vision.

Second Line Break/Pass – The pass will bye pass the person next to you but does not split defenders. The second line pass requires a little larger passing vision. This is slightly more difficult then the first line pass usually.

Third Line Split Pass – This is a ball is the money ball that splits the defenders up the middle. This pass requires the most skill, vision and timing to pull off.   In soccer the ultimate goal is to get the ball forward and score. Third line split passes help develop this skill.

Key Points for All Rondo Training:

Rondo teaches players that if the ball is coming from the left – let it roll and receive with your right foot and play to your right with the inside of your left foot. This basic idea teaches players to receive the ball away from pressure and to play quickly away from pressure, by doing this it establishes a quick tempo of play. Players do not always play this way but as a fundamental principle it is important to teach rondo using this idea in the beginning.

Stay on the balls of your feet with an open stance ready to receive the ball from any side or forward direction and pass the ball to any side or forward option(forward angle passes as well)

Always be focused and mentally into the game. Try to get into a high level zone of performance and concentration.

Try and think one or two steps ahead of the play. Speed of thought equals speed of play.

Have fun and bring energy to the group. There is nothing wrong with having tons of fun if the training is of the highest quality.

Let your teammates know when they did well or when they need to pick it up. Clap and shout out the great passes and defensive plays! Teams that demand a high level of performance from each other get better quicker.

Speed of play, creativity, teamwork, sound technique and problem-solving are all very important.

The importance of keeping possession as an individual and team is the primary objective but look for Third Line Splitting Passes when they present themselves. Forward passing is what scores goals and those opportunities need to be taken when they are available.

Establish a rhythm to the passing. The tempo of play and rhythm is critical for success.

How I Teach Rondo:

Here is a brief explanation of the way I teach rondo. First, my team does rondo every single day in one form or another. We are always changing up numbers, rules, grid sizes and variations of the game. The goal is to get players problem solving and thinking by changing the variables. Our program places a lot of value on teaching players to be thinkers and problem solvers. The more a player develops their cognitive ability in training the more intelligent soccer player they become. Changing the rondos also helps with eliminating the feeling of “oh this again”. The progressions, variations and transitions really help keep players stay intense and motivated.


Barcelona Attacking Passing Pattern : Be Sure To Check Out Online Coaching Diploma Courses at


Train Like Barcelona. Play Like Barcelona

Attacking Passing Pattern

Grid: 25×30 Yards

Players: 4-6 Players

Instructions & Key Points:

This is the first of many passing patterns that Barcelona uses on a regular basis. With every passing pattern it is important that all passes are hit firm, balls are played to the correct receiving foot, players pop off the cones or mannequins, eye contact is made between passer and receiver and inside of foot receiving and passing are trained.

This book has 25+ Barcelona Training Ground Exercises! Be sure to pick up your copy! Will be out June 20th, 2015.

Barcelona Dynamic Crossing & Finishing: My New Book ” Train Like Barcelona. Play Like Barcelona” – Coming June 20th!


This crossing and finishing exercise involves dynamic movements into the sequence of passing, crossing and finishing.  The picture shows sticks that the players shuffle through but the use of mini-hurdles, speed rings, speed ladder, cones and more can be worked into the exercise to train the players.  Players rotate forward one position after finishing.


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