How to Pass in Soccer

Passing is one of the essential fundamental skills in the game of soccer. You may be the best player in the world, but if you don’t pass the ball to your teammates, you will always decrease the likelihood that you will win the match. For this reason, it is crucial that you familiarize yourself with the different forms of passes, as well as the optimal times to use them.

Recognizing the Pass

In order to complete a successful pass, you must first hone your ability to recognize opportune times to attempt one. If you are advancing towards the opponent’s goal and the opposing defenders are not challenging you for the ball, keep dribbling until they do. Once they decide to threaten your maintenance of possession, you will have drawn them towards you, thereby opening up one of your teammates to receive a pass. This is called “drawing the defender,” which is essential in order to create numerical mismatches in favor of your attack. You also need to be aware of not only where your teammates are, but also where they are going. A truly gifted passer has the vision to anticipate where a ball needs to be placed before his/her teammate gets there.

Passing to a Player

When making a pass, you want to place the ball where your teammate can easily receive it. Generally, this is at their feet, where the ball is easiest to control. Balls can also be passed to the chest or head, but those are generally reserved for circumstantial situations like setting up a shot on goal.

Types of Passes

Inside of Foot Pass

A pass made with the inside of the foot is the most common in a match. It’s simple, accurate, and does not require a tremendous amount of physical exertion. It also represents the greatest amount of surface area on your foot with which you can easily attempt a pass on the ball.

Outside of Foot Pass

A pass made with the outside of the foot is generally made to put spin on the ball to curve around an opposing defender, or as a “flick” pass that can be made quickly to a teammate on the wings. The outside-of-the-foot-pass is less accurate than the inside, but is often necessary given the positioning of the ball relative to your foot.

Chip Pass

A chip pass is made by getting the toe of the cleat under the ball to loft it in the air. Generally, a chip pass is made in order to go over an opposing defender. However, in the absence of a defender it can still be referred to as a chip.

Outlet Pass

The outlet pass succeeds in making a clearance from the defensive zone. Often times, defenders are not fortunate enough to have this opportunity, and must simply clear the ball aimlessly from the defensive zone. As a defender, you almost always want to avoid simply booting the ball out, and instead look to make an outlet pass to your midfielders or forwards so that they can counterattack.

Through Pass

A through pass is sent beyond the defensive line in anticipation of a teammate who will strike into the open space. Through passes are most commonly made during an offensive counterattack when the opposing defense is disorganized and its formation is porous.

Wall Pass

A wall pass, also known as the give-and-go or one-two, is made when a player passes to a teammate to avoid an opposing defender, and then advances up the field to have the ball returned to him by the teammate who received his original pass. It is essentially a way for an attacking player to advance the ball up field and easily bypass an opposing defender.

Crossing Pass

A crossing pass is made in order to send the ball from the wings of the pitch to the center in front of the net. It is easier to advance the ball up the wings because most of the defenders are concerned with defending the center of the field where the goal is.

Back Pass

Just because the object of the match is to score goals, it doesn’t mean you always need to move forward. Sometimes it is in the best interest of your team to slow down the pace, maintain possession, and wait for an opening in the defense. This situation is where the back pass is essential. If you find yourself swarmed by the defense and without any forward passing lanes, send the ball backwards to a teammate. There is a good chance that open space will be much more abundant on the opposite side of the pitch, and your teammate can facilitate the switch if that is the case.

Heel Pass

Heel passes can be quite dangerous, because they take a good deal of timing and skill to master. You are also passing “blind,” so to speak, in that your back is facing the direction that you are heeling the ball. Whenever possible, it is best to avoid heel passes, unless the situation on the pitch necessitates it. Even great players will opt for an inside-foot pass whenever possible, because it’s simple, accurate, and the level of risk is minimal.

Header Pass

Header passes are similar to heel passes in that they are very difficult to play accurately. Whenever possible, opt for a chest trap on a playable ball in the air if your intention is to pass to a teammate.

Passing into Space

A more advanced passing technique is passing into space. This is the idea of passing the ball not to where your teammate is, but where you expect him/her to go. You will find that the more often you play, the better your understanding of this concept will become. As soccer is a team sport, it is also important that you develop chemistry with your teammates so that you become familiar with their body language and tendencies. You will learn that some players are better at recognizing a pass to space than others, and you will subsequently adjust your play accordingly.

Amazingly True Story

In the summer of 2009, Real Madrid embarked on the most unprecedented spending spree in the history of soccer. Although it spent a record transfer fee of $137.5 million on Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s best player, they also spent $95.6 million on Brazilian midfielder Kaka, and $48 million on Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso. The argument being: What good is the world’s best striker without talented midfielders to get him the ball?

The experiment has been a success, and the two teams that lost their star midfielders, Liverpool and AC Milan, have struggled mightily without their former field generals distributing the ball. Despite Madrid’s astronomical spending, it did not even have the best midfield tandem in soccer’s 2009-2010 season. That distinction very well belonged to Madrid’s hated rival, FC Barcelona. Barcelona’s top pair, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta proved to be the dominant tandem in Spain is this season.

Avoiding an Offside Play

As the passer of the ball, you are responsible for recognizing when your teammate is in an offside position. If this is the case, do not pass them the ball, as it will only result in a loss of possession. If your teammate is repeatedly in an offside position throughout the course of a match, speak to him/her and let them know why they have not been receiving your passes. In most cases your teammate will adjust their positioning accordingly to accommodate your needs. You must also be aware of what is commonly referred to as the “offside trap.” This is when the opposing defenders will try and bait you into making a through pass to a teammate, only to jump forward on the pitch catching your targeted teammate offside.

Receiving the Pass

If you do not have possession of the ball, you are a potential recipient of a pass. For this reason, you have a tremendous responsibility to remain aware at all times. Your teammates may be trying to get you the ball, but if you aren’t aware of their intention, it won’t happen. You also have to be aware of the “offside trap” (noted above). Remember that opposing defenders will do everything in their power to prevent you from getting the ball, so you have to work to get it. This means letting your teammates know where you are on the pitch and moving towards the ball when a pass is made, instead of simply waiting for it to roll at your feet.

Communicating with Teammates

Communication is one of the most important elements of a soccer match. Without it, your ability to move the ball around the field effectively will be significantly hampered. For starters, look up at your teammate. I he/she has the ball, let them know you’re there. Being vocal is an essential part of soccer, and if you don’t speak up, your teammates won’t always know where you are or if you’re open. If a teammate is receiving a pass and a defender is converging on him/her from their blind side, you must yell out “man on” so they know that they don’t have much time to make a decision with the ball.

Passing to the Goalkeeper

There will be times that you’ll be caught in your defensive zone with no good option for an outlet pass. If this is the case, your goalkeeper is always behind you and should be waiting to help you if needed. Just be careful that if you do elect to pass the ball back to the keeper, he/she is not allowed to use his hands to ensure that you give him enough time to make a play on the ball without endangering the goal.

Receiving Passes from the Goalkeeper

If your goalkeeper has the ball, it means that the opposing team is putting pressure on your goal. In that situation, your objective should be to get the ball out of your defensive third. You can accelerate this process by getting open to receive your keeper’s pass. Be aware that if the keeper picks up the ball and attempts to pass it your way, you are not allowed to touch the ball until it leaves the 18-yard penalty box. Failure to abide by this rule will result in an in-direct free kick for the opposing team.

You are Ready to Distribute!

Hopefully this guide has provided you with the necessary tools to perfect the basic elements of your passing. Once you have mastered these tactics, feel free to continue to the Advanced Passing Guide for further instruction.

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