How To Stop Goals: Top 9 Soccer Defense Drills

When it comes to soccer, there is a lot more strategy involved than people might initially think.

Although each player is usually assigned a position, which comes with roles and responsibilities, they then have to adapt and switch throughout the game, in order to be where they are needed most.

Players need to use their skills at the top of their abilities, all while prioritizing teamwork and coordinating with each other to ensure success. 

That is why, especially in youth soccer, training sessions will often follow different soccer drills, designed and instructed by the coach.

How To Stop Goals Top 9 Soccer Defense Drills

These drills are sort of practice runs for certain situations, in which the players are positioned and instructed to follow a certain strategy.

Then, through the repetition of these drills, the players will develop certain skills, which will then become muscle memory for when they are truly needed out on the field during a match. 

There are many different types of drills that focus on different areas of soccer. But the type of drills that are absolutely vital are defense drills.

Because sure, the aim of soccer is to score goals, so you need your players to be able to go on the offense. But you want to also prevent the other team from scoring any goals, and the way to do that is by perfecting the defense. 

Practicing the best and most common defense drills can help your team develop strong defensive instincts and skills so that they can block the opposing team with ease when it matters. 

But which are the best and most common defense drills? 

We’ve got you covered. Let’s take a look at the 9 most popular and effective defense drills, which your team should absolutely be using during training.

1. The 2-on-2 support drill

In the 2-on-2 support, two attackers are pitted against two defenders. The defenders start by passing the ball over to the attackers, and then one defender goes against the attacker receiving the ball, while the other two stay on-hand to support or interfere. 

Basically, the aim of this drill is to improve the footwork and timing involved in defending, as well as developing good support skills.

While the attackers will have to learn to make decisions on the go, along with improving their ball dribbling skills in order to get past the defenders. 

The necessary setup:

  • A full-sized goal post
  • A goalkeeper in the goal, just in case the attackers manage to shoot to score. If you have several goalkeepers in training, have them rotate so they all get a go
  • Place two offense cones between 15 and 20 yards outside of the penalty area. (Make sure they line up with the goal post)
  • Place two defense cones between 2 or 3 yards off of the goalpost. 
  • Divide all the players into four even groups, and then line them up behind each cone. This way, every player will get the chance to practice one of the four positions in the drill. 
  • The two players at the front of the two defense cones, pair up. The two players at the front of the two offense cones pair up. And these two pairs will go up against each other in the drill, then it’s on to the next set of pairs. 
  • Each round should last around 6 minutes, and every player should be able to practice in at least two rounds, in different positions. 

How to perform the drill:

  1. One of the defenders starts out with the ball and passes it over to one of the attackers. 
  2. The defenders then advance, and the one closest to the attacker receiving the ball applies more pressure to block. 
  3. The attacker with the ball must try to pass the ball to the other attacker. If they succeed, then the supporting defender will become the main defender and vice versa. 
  4. The drill ends when the defenders recover the ball, or when the attackers shoot to score. 

2. The 3-on-2 defending drill

In the 3-on-2 defending, there are two defenders that have to defend the goal post from three attackers working together. 

Basically, the aim of this drill is to teach the defenders to work together and to up their defense skills when they are outnumbered, without caving under the pressure.

This helps the defenders to improve their speed and timing, as well as developing spatial awareness and positioning, as they have to work harder in order to block an outnumbered attack. 

The necessary setup:

  • A full-sized goal with a goalkeeper. If there are more goalkeepers, they can take turns throughout the drill. (So that they all get a go.) 
  • Place three cones between 15 to 20 yards away from the top of the penalty box, with around 15 yards of space between them. 
  • The three cones will extend the penalty box and serve as the designated area for the drill. 
  • Have all the players divide into three lines, each group behind one of the cones. And then pick two players to be the defenders for each round. (Rotate between players). 
  • The ball will always start with the center attacker. 
  • Each round should last around 5 minutes. With the attackers working together to get past the two defenders. 

How to perform the drill:

  1. The drill begins with the central attacker having the ball, and all three attackers move forward, working together. 
  2. The two defenders advance and must work together to block them. 
  3. The attackers can dribble and pass the ball amongst them in any way, the aim is to get through and score. 
  4. The drill ends when the defenders win the ball, or when the attackers score. Then it switches to a new round with different players taking over the positions. 

3. The 4-on-2 overload drill

4 on 2 overload drill

In the 4-on-2 overload, it truly works as an overload as there are four attackers and two defenders. The attackers have to score as many goals as possible, while the defenders try to block for a certain amount of time. 

Basically, the aim of this drill is to over-train the defenders so that they are having to take their skills to the extreme.

With them being overloaded by attackers, they have to work twice as hard, with great timing and coordination to make it work. This will make them a lot more capable down the line. 

The necessary setup:

  • A full-sized goal. As an optional bonus, you can have a goalkeeper. But every time the attackers score a goal, the goalkeeper must quickly pass the ball out again so that they can continue with the drill. 
  • Use four cones to mark the designated area, about a third of the field approximately. 
  • Pick four players to attack, and two to defend. After each round, the players should switch out for other players. 
  • The ball starts with the coach and is kicked into the designated area as the drill begins. 
  • Each round should last around 3 minutes max, with multiple rounds. 

How to perform the drill:

  1. The drill starts when the coach kicks the ball into the designated area, aimed at one of the four attacking players. 
  2. The four attackers work together to get past the defenders and score. 
  3. The two defenders must work together to try and block the attackers, and win the ball off of them. 
  4. If the defenders win the ball, they kick it out of the designated area, and the coach kicks in a new ball to the attackers. 
  5. If the attackers score a goal, either a goalkeeper kicks it back out to the attackers, or the coach kicks a new ball to the attackers. 
  6. The drill should be repeated throughout many rounds, switching between players, and with the players switching roles. 

4. The box defending drill

In the box defending, two defenders have to clear crosses into the box, for three attackers. As soon as the defenders have cleared each ball, they push out of the penalty box, before starting all over. 

Basically, the aim of this drill is to teach the defenders to clear the ball out of the penalty box quickly, improving their skills of timing, and developing their positioning and spatial awareness. 

The necessary setup:

  • A full-sized goal. You can choose between having a goalkeeper or not. Having one will help out the defenders, while not having one will give the attackers yet another advantage. 
  • Place three cones around 5 yards out of the penalty area. (Allow for around 6 yards between each cone). 
  • Divide the players into three lines behind each cone, then pick out two players to be the defenders. These positions should switch after every round. 
  • All the soccer balls should be divided into two groups of crossers. 
  • Each round should last around 2 minutes. 

How to perform the drill:

  1. The two defenders start at the top of the box. 
  2. Once the assigned crosser takes a touch towards the line, the attackers (one from each of the three cones) begin to run into the box, while the defenders backpedal into it. 
  3. The crosser must serve the ball into the box. 
  4. The attackers try to reach the ball to score, while the defenders try to reach the ball to clear it away. 
  5. Once the ball is cleared, the next crosser brings in the next ball and the next three attackers attempt to get past the defenders. Until the round is over. 
  6. If the attackers get through and score, a new round begins. 

5. The “channel the attacker” drill

In the channel the attacker drills, there is one defender and one attacker. Behind the defender, there are three gates, each one worth a different amount of points. The attacker has to try and make it through as many gates as possible, and the defender has to prevent this. 

Basically, the aim of this drill is to focus on individual one-on-one training, to develop individual skills in both the defender and the attacker. As the defender can’t rely on any support, it’s all down to the footwork and the technique. 

The necessary setup:

  • Use cones to set up the three gates. The first gate should be 5 yards wide, with the second being 4 yards, and the one closest to the goal being 3 yards.
  • Place one cone across from the first gate, between 15 to 20 yards away. 
  • Divide the players into two teams, attackers and defenders. The attackers should line up behind the last cone you placed, The defenders should line up in front of the last gate. 
  • The ball starts with the defender, with each defender having a ball. 
  • Each round should last around 5 to 6 minutes. 

How to perform the drill:

  1. The drill starts with the first defender in line, passing the ball to the first attacker in line. As soon as they pass the ball, the defender sprints towards the receiving attacker. 
  2. The attacker has to try and score a goal through one of the three gates. The one closest to where the attacker begins is worth one point, the next one is worth five points, and the gate furthest away is worth 10 points. 
  3. The defender has to try and win the ball back, preventing the attacker from scoring. 
  4. As soon as the attacker has scored, or the defender has won back the ball, they leave the area and the next two in line begin the drill. And so on, until the round is over. 
  5. The players can switch sides every time they complete a drill so that they can be both attacker and defender within the round. 

6. The “defend the gate” drill

defend the gate drill

In the defense of the gate drill, a gate is placed in the middle of the grid. The defender passes the ball over to the attacker, and then the defender has to defend the gate from the attacker getting through. As a one versus one sort of play. 

Basically, the aim of this drill is to improve individual skills such as footwork and timing, with a one-on-one focused defense and attack. This also helps develop ball control and dribbling technique. 

The necessary setup:

  • Place four cones to designate the grid the drill takes place within. The grid should be between 20 to 25 yards long, and between 10 to 15 yards wide. 
  • Place another two cones, or alternatively two poles or similar, in the center of the grid. This will be the gate. 
  • Divide the players into two teams, attackers and defenders, and place them at either side of the grid. 
  • Each defense player should have a ball. 
  • Every round should last around 7 minutes or so. 

How to perform the drill:

  1. The drill starts with the first defender in line passing the ball through the gate, over to the first attacker in line. 
  2. As soon as the ball is passed, the defender runs through the gate, towards the receiving attacker. 
  3. The attacker then attempts to dribble the ball past the defender, through the gate.
  4. The defender must block the attacker from getting through the gate. 
  5. As soon as the attacker gets through the gate, the defender wins the ball back, or the ball leaves the grid, the two players leave the designated area and the two next players in line begin their turn. 
  6. After each turn, the players switch positions, so that everyone gets to be both attacker and defender within the round. 

7. The defensive recovery runs drill

In the defensive recovery runs, there is one attacker and one defender. The defender has to make it to the goal before the attacker, and then prevent them from scoring by clearing the ball. 

Basically, the aim of this drill is to practice the situation of a long ball kick, which happens often in real games. It majorly improves speed, and the ability to quickly backtrack and defend, when unexpected. It also develops the footwork of the defender and the spatial awareness, 

The necessary setup:

  • A full-sized goal, with a goalkeeper defending it. This will make it a lot more real. You can have several goalkeepers taking turns too. 
  • Place two cones midfield, around 5 or 10 yards before the half-line of the field,  to the side of the center circle. 
  • Dive the players into two teams, attackers and defenders, and have them line up behind the two cones. 
  • The team closest to the inside of the field is the defending team, and the others are the attackers. 
  • The coach should stand at the center of the field, within the circle. All the balls should be there. 
  • Each round should last around 10 minutes. 

How to perform the drill:

  1. The drill starts with the coach kicking a ball towards the penalty box. 
  2. The first attacker in line, and the first defender in line, both sprint towards the ball. 
  3. The defender aims to get to the ball first, to clear it away, or pass it back to the coach.
  4. The attacker aims to get to the ball, get past the defense, and score. 
  5. When the defender clears the ball or the attacker scores, the players leave the area and the next two in line begin their turn in the drill. 

8. The horizontal challenge drill

In the horizontal challenge, there is one player attacking and one player defending. The attacker has to advance along the penalty box line, aiming to score, and the defender has to block and clear the ball away. 

Basically, the aim of this drill is to improve footwork and agility, as well as individual skills through a one-on-one competition.

The defender will learn to always be positioned between the attacker and the goal, no matter how unpredictable the attacker is. And the attacker will improve dribbling and ball control skills. 

The necessary setup:

  • A full-sized goal. A goalkeeper is optional but preferred. With multiple goalkeepers, they can take turns. 
  • Place two cones at the top of the penalty box, on one side of the field. There should be around 4 yards between the cones. 
  • Divide the team into two groups, defenders and attackers, and line them up behind the two cones. (The defenders should be the ones closest to the goal, and the attackers the ones furthest). 
  • The attackers all start with a ball at their feet. 
  • Each round should last around 7 minutes or so. 

How to perform the drill:

  1. The drill begins with the first attacker in line sprinting out with the ball. 
  2. The defender must match the attacker, remaining between the attacker and the goal at all points, in order to avoid the attacker from scoring. 
  3. The attacker can change speed, direction, and more, in order to get past the defender and score. 
  4. The defender must adapt to the attacker, and block every move to prevent a score. 
  5. When the attacker scores or the defender wins the ball, the players leave the area and the next two in line begin their turn. 
  6. The players should switch positions after every turn, so they can be both attacker and defender within the round. 

9. The no turn 1-on-1 drill

No turn 1 on 1 drill

In the no-turn 1-on-1, a defender has to keep an attacker from turning and scoring. 

Basically, the aim of this drill is to improve the defender’s footwork and positioning, all while being able to instinctively match the moves of the attacker, to block and prevent them from turning and scoring. 

The necessary setup:

  • A full-sized goal, with the option of a goalkeeper, would make the drill more realistic. 
  • Place cones to designate a 12x12 box, which should start around 8 yards away from the goal itself. 
  • Two players start inside the box, an attacker and a defender. 
  • The rest of the players form a line, around 8 yards behind the box. The first in line has a ball. 
  • Each round should last around 5 minutes or so. 

How to perform the drill:

  1. The first player in line passes the ball to the attacker within the box. 
  2. The attacker has their back to the goal when receiving the ball. 
  3. The attacker’s aim is to turn around and score at the goal.
  4. The defender’s aim is to block the attacker from turning and scoring. 
  5. When the attacker scores, loses the ball, or ends up out of the box, the turn ends and the players switch positions. After the second turn, two new players enter the box.