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The Soccer Sidelines

131 EpisodesProduced by David DejewskiWebsite

Join Coach Dave on the sidelines as he brings you in on what’s going on behind the scenes and the stuff that really matters in youth sports. Understand the game, development, and ways you can support your young athlete at home!

17:35

The Vertical Game in Soccer

Putting the ball up in the air... should be do it, or should we keep it on the ground? Choosing what to train in youth soccer and when to train it is a combination of science and art. US Youth Soccer gives us some useful guidelines, but how closely we follow those guidelines requires a look at individual players, team strategy, club strategy, and even individual coaching philosophy. Let's explore the vertical game in soccer! 
Why Talk About This?
This episode is dedicated to coach Rick Watts and the excellent coaches of the Saint Mary's Soccer Club in Maryland. Rick is a listener and member of our Soccer Sidelines community. He's also the VP for Recreational Soccer at Saint Mary's. He sent me a question last week  - Thanks, Rick! - along with an email exchange between he and a few of his coaches. They were exploring the vertical game, when to use it, if they should use it, etc. 

In this exchange, coach Dave, one of Rick's coaches - presumably from his recreation program - asks "(I) Want to clarify a rule with you for U8 girls. It was my understanding that we are supposed to keep the ball on the ground due to the shortness of the field we play on. We played a team last week that kicked in the air the majority of the time. I mentioned it to the coach and his response was that’s how soccer is played. I just want to make sure of the rule so I can teach my girls the right way to play."
"(I) Want to clarify a rule with you for U8 girls. It was my understanding that we are supposed to keep the ball on the ground due to the shortness of the field we play on. We played a team last week that kicked in the air the majority of the time. I mentioned it to the coach and his response was that’s how soccer is played. I just want to make sure of the rule so I can teach my girls the right way to play.”

Rick's response to Dave reflected his experience and some very specific statistics he's been keeping on the game. He asked for my thoughts on the subject and suggested that this might make a good subject for a podcast. 

Well, first, thank you Rick for sharing this idea! I agree that this makes a good subject for the show, and I think this is a great question to help illustrate some important principles of a developmental style of coaching - as well as give us some insight into how we think about what we teach. 
What is The Vertical Game in Soccer?
Put simply, we're talking about putting the ball into the air. This could be a long punt from the goalkeeper, a chipped pass over the heads of pressuring defenders, a high diagonal long pass over a group of players, or a high cross from the wing or as a corner kick into the box. 

Big Punts or "goal kicks" from the goalkeeper

Chipped or Lofted Pass

Lofted Cross to Change AOA

The above illustrations show a few examples of the vertical game in soccer. There are many variations to this, of course, but the simple explanation of the vertical game is that the ball is played in the air as part of the game tactics. The objective may be to change the angle of attack, move the ball into space behind a pressuring opponent, or maybe to give teammates an opportunity to score. The opposite of the vertical game would be playing the ball on the ground. 

The vertical game in soccer has a well known effect on the game and individual team strategies. In the February 27, 2019 match between the US and Japan in the She Believes Cup, Ali Wagner was chatting with JP Dellacamera about the vertical game as being one of the strengths of the US Women's National team. 

The US Women's National team demonstrates one positive example of the vertical game being employed in a meaningful and productive way. 

Ali Wagner and JP Dellacamera from Fox Sports One
Should We Play a Vertical Game or Not?
The discussion that Rick and his coaches are having is whether or not to play a vertical game. One coach, Dave, was saying that he thought the club policy was to use the "buildup lines" and play out from the back - primarily ...

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