Breaking Lines + Diagonal Run Drills (Beat The Defense)

The opposition stands like a wall in front of you with no way of getting through, this call for some drills to break the lines with individual runs.

A good team keeps its shape and is difficult to break down. You can make it easy for them by keeping in position, but you can break their lines with a variation of runs that will surprise your opponents.

Soccer Player Breaking Through The Lines In A Game
Soccer Player Breaking Through The Lines In A Game ○ Soccer Blade

Breaking Lines + Diagonal Runs

Zig-Zag Dribbling: Soccer Drill

Drill Outline

  • Drill Name: Zig-Zag Dribbling
  • Session Length: 5 minutes
  • Age Group: all ages
  • Number of players: 1 to 18
  • Skills learned: Ball control, dribbling, turning, accelerating with the ball.
  • Equipment: 1 ball (minimum), 4 cones

Drill Setup

  • Set up the drill as shown in the graphic.
  • Create a zig-zag grid by placing 4 cones 10 yards apart in a lightning bolt formation.
  • All players line up behind P1 at the starting point. 
  • If there are 6 or more players, consider setting up an identical zig-zag grid, and splitting the team into 2 groups. 
Zig Zag Dribbling
Zig Zag Dribbling

Drill Instructions

  1. P1 starts the drill by dribbling at speed toward the second cone. 
  2. P1 decelerates and rounds the cone as quickly as possible before dribbling to the third cone. 
  3. Again, P1 decelerates and rounds the third cone before dribbling toward then around the final cone. 
  4. P1 repeats the drill from the opposite angle. 
  5. The focus should be on sharp but controlled turns. 
  6. Instruct players to trap the ball as they turn, avoiding it from running away from them. 

Drill Variations

  • Focus on the right foot dribbling only for a round. 
  • Focus on left foot dribbling only for a round.
  • For advanced dribblers, instruct them to practice chopping the ball with their heel for a round.
  • Create a competition between teams or individuals to see who can complete the drill the quickest. Consider introducing time penalties for losing control of the ball.

Sharks and Minnows: Soccer Drill

  • Age Range: 4-8
  • Length of Session: 10 mins
  • Number of Players: 6+
  • Skills to Learn: dribbling, keeping head up, ball control
  • Equipment: balls for each player, cones, pinnies optional.

Description: Kids try to dribble from one side to the other without getting tagged by the shark. Anyone tagged becomes a shark.

Drill Set-up: 

  • Create a large rectangle suitable for the number and age of players. For example, 35 meters long by 20 meters wide for 12-15 6-year-olds. 
  • Give each player a ball and line them up on the starting line.
  • Select a “shark” to start. 
Sharks And Minnows Soccer Drill Soccerblade.com
Sharks And Minnows Soccer Drill Soccerblade.com

Drill Instructions

  1. Line up all of the “minnows” with their balls.
  2. Choose 1-2 sharks and place them in the middle of the space. 
  3. When you say go, have the minnows try to dribble across the other side without getting tagged by a shark. 
  4. Anyone who is tagged must become a shark for the next round.
  5. Challenge players to see who can be the last minnow standing.
  6. Younger kids, 4-6, can focus on just tagging the player. For kids 6-8, change the rules so they must knock the ball away from the minnow to count. For kids 8-10 or with advanced skills, you can require them to take full possession of the ball. 
  7. Another way to make the drill more challenging is to make the space smaller. 
  8. You can also add specific dribbling challenges within the game (weak foot only, must complete 2 moves before crossing, etc.

Split the Defense Finishing: Soccer Drill

Drill Outline

  • Drill Name: Split the defense finishing
  • Session Length: 5 to 10 minutes
  • Age Group: 10+
  • Number of players: 3 to 18
  • Skills learned: Movement, positioning, first touch, finishing
  • Equipment: 1 mannequin (alternatively 1 cone or agility pole), 3 cone, 1 goal, 1 balls (minimum)

Drill Setup

  • Use the penalty box for this drill. 
  • Set up a full-size goal, even if there is no goalkeeper.
  • Place a mannequin, cone, or agility pole centrally on the edge of the penalty box. 
  • Place 1 cone 5 yards outside the penalty box.
  • Create a 5-yard passing gate to the right of the mannequin using 2 cones.
  • P1 stands next to the mannequin.
  • P2 and the rest of the players line up behind the cone outside the box.
  • P2 starts with the ball.
Split The Defense Finishing
Split The Defense Finishing

Drill Instructions

  1. P1 starts the drill by moving around the mannequin as if it were a defender. 
  2. P1 then sprints in front of the mannequin to receive a pass.
  3. P2 plays a quick one-two return pass to P1. 
  4. After playing the return pass, P1 backs away toward the 2 cone grid while still facing P2.
  5. This movement simulates splitting 2 defenders in the back line. 
  6. P2 plays a pass to P1’s feet. 
  7. P1 takes a touch into the penalty box for a 1 v 1 with the goalkeeper.
  8. P1 joins the end of the passing line. 
  9. P2 takes P1’s position. 
  10. Repeat the drill. 

Drill Variations

  • Switch the drill to the opposite side to practice different shooting angles.
  • Create a competition where each attacker has 2 lives. All players can miss 2 shots. On the third miss, they are eliminated. The last player remaining is the winner.

Multiphase Attacking Possession: Soccer Drill

Drill Outline

  • Drill Name: Multiphase Attacking Possession 
  • Session Length: 5 to 10 minutes
  • Age Group: 10+
  • Number of players: 8 (minimum)
  • Skills learned: Passing, movement, positioning, dribbling, finishing
  • Equipment: 4 cones, 1 ball, 1 goal

Drill Setup

  • Use the penalty box and surrounding area for this drill. 
  • If you have a goalkeeper, set up a full-size goal. If not, create a small goal using cones.
  • Divide the team into groups of 4. 
  • 4 attackers and 4 defenders participate at a time. 
  • The attackers form a circle outside the penalty box with the ball. 
  • 2 defenders stand inside the circle of attackers. 
  • 2 defenders wait inside the penalty box. 
Multiphase Drill
Multiphase Drill

Drill Instructions

  1. The drill starts as a passing rondo. The attackers try to complete 5 consecutive passes. 
  2. If the defenders win possession, they switch roles with the attackers. 
  3. Once a team completes 5 consecutive passes, the rondo defenders must stop trying to win the ball. 
  4. The attackers then take on the defenders inside the penalty box and try to score. They can pass, dribble, or shoot from wherever they like. 
  5. Encourage the attackers to be smart regarding their positional play, using their numerical mismatch to make space and create a high percentage of goal-scoring chances. 
  6. After each round, the attackers and defenders switch roles. 
  7. If there are more groups, rotate them after each round. 

Drill Variations

  • Limit the number of touches for attacking players. 
  • Add extra defenders to increase the difficulty for attackers. 
  • Create a competition to see which team can score the most goals. 
  • Scale this drill up or down depending on the number of available players. 

Overload & Switch Play: Soccer Drill

Drill Outline

  • Drill Name: Overload & Switch Play
  • Session Length: 10  minutes
  • Age Group: 12+
  • Number of players: 10 
  • Skills learned: Long passing, heading, crossing, finishing, & tactics
  • Equipment: Full Field, 1 ball, 1 goal

Drill Setup

  • Line up 10 outfield players in a 4-4-2 formation. 
  • Instruct the center backs (D2 & D3) to occupy a high line, halfway between the center circle and the edge of the penalty box. 
  • Instruct the left back (D1) to push higher up the field, close to the halfway line. 
  • Instruct the right back (D4) to tuck in narrowly, near the center back.
  • Instruct the best passing midfielder (M1) to stand just behind the center circle and to be ready to make a long, diagonal pass.
Overload And Switch
Overload And Switch

Drill Instructions

  1. To start, the strikers take tip-off and pass the ball back to M1.
  2. As soon as the tip is taken, S1 and S2, W1, and D1 sprint down the left wing toward the edge of the penalty box. 
  3. D1, W1, and S1 turn to face the passer. S2 holds their run slightly, anticipating a knockdown. M2 moves into the left channel but keeps distance from the others to create space. 
  4. W3 and D4 run down the right channel, preparing for a back post entry to the penalty box. 
  5. M1 lofts the ball toward the overloaded side. 
  6. D1 and W1 communicate to determine who will head the ball, before cushioning the ball to M2 or S1 and S2. 
  7. The overload should drag the defense over to one side exposing the opposite post. 
  8. The ball is played back to M2, who then crosses the ball to the back post where the right back or right winger scores.

Drill Variations

  • Switch this drill to the opposite side of the field. 
  • Pull back a defender if you want to plan a less aggressive kickoff strategy. 
  • Push forward another center back for a more aggressive strategy. 
  • Use opposition defenders or mannequins to simulate defenders’ positions.

2 v 2 Counterattacks: Soccer Drill

Drill Outline

  • Drill Name: 2 v 2 Counterattacks
  • Session Length: 10 minutes
  • Age Group: 7+ 
  • Number of players: 4 (minimum)
  • Skills learned: Passing, dribbling, finishing, defensive positioning, tackling
  • Equipment: 4 cones, 1 ball, 2 mini goals, 1 regular goal

Drill Setup

  • Create a 15 to 20-yard square playing grid using 4 cones.
  • Set up a regular size goal at one end of the grid. 
  • Set up 2 small goals next to either corner on the opposite end.
  • Divide the team into pairs (2 v 2) and elect half as defenders and half as attackers.
  • Defenders (D1 + D2) line up at the end with 2 goals. 
  • Attackers (P1 + P2) begin at the other end. 
  • The defenders start with the ball.
2 V 2 Counter Attacks
2 V 2 Counter Attacks

Drill Instructions

  1. On the coach’s signal, D1 plays a 15 to 20-yard pass (depending on the size of your grid) to P1 or P2. 
  2. P1 and P2 now take on D1 and D2 in a 2 v 2 situation.
  3. P1 and P2 try to score in either goal on the opposite end. D1 and D2 attempt to stop them. 
  4. If D1 and D2 win possession, they can counterattack quickly and attempt to score. 
  5. P1 and P2 must try to stop them. 
  6. Each team has a maximum of one attack per round. 
  7. The round is over if either team scores, the ball goes out of play, or a counterattack is unsuccessful.
  8. After 5 rounds, the players switch roles, then play another 5 rounds. 
  9. The team with the most goals wins. 
  10. If you have multiple pairs, set up identical grids or rotate pairs frequently.

Drill Variations

  • Switch the attacking and defending sides, giving players a chance to score dual and single goals. 
  • If you have a goalkeeper, consider using them for this drill. 
  • Set a scoring time limit.
  • Play 2-touch or 3-touch rounds to work on quick passing and movement. 
  • Mark a small area next to each goal. Players can only score from inside this zone. This encourages players to focus on build-up play and chance creation, eliminating long-distance pot shots. 

1 v 1 Relay: Soccer Drill

Drill Outline

  • Drill Name: 1 v 1 Relay
  • Session Length: 10 minutes
  • Age Group: All age groups
  • Number of players: 2+
  • Skills learned: Movement, quick feet, dribbling, tackling, blocking, finishing
  • Equipment: 6 cones, 1 ball, 1 goal, 8 agility poles

Drill Setup

  • Use the penalty box and the surrounding area for this drill. 
  • Place a cone, 5 to 10 yards from the corner of the penalty box toward the sideline. This indicates the starting position.
  • Place 4 agility poles 5 yards from the cone toward the end line in a weave formation. 
  • Place another cone 5 yards from the end of the weave. 
  • Position 1 more cone in line with the first cone and the edge of the penalty box. 
  • Set up an identical drill on the opposite side of the field. 
  • Place 1 in the center of the edge of the penalty box. 
  • P1 and P2 stand at the starting cones on either side of the field. 
1 V 1 Relay
1 V 1 Relay

Drill Instructions

  1. On the coach’s signal, P1 and P2 sprint to, then through the agility pole weave, moving laterally outside each pole. 
  2. After completing the weave, they spring too, then around the cone near the end line before sprinting toward the final cone next to the starting point. 
  3. After rounding the final cone, both players race to win possession of the ball. 
  4. The player who gets the ball first is the attacker, making the other player the defender. 
  5. From here, they compete in a 1 v 1, with the attacker trying to score. 
  6. If you have a goalkeeper, use a full-size goal. If not, set up a small goal or create a shooting gate using cones. 
  7. Players are awarded 2 points for a goal and 1 point for dispossessing or blocking their opponent. A foul results in a 1 point deduction. 
  8. No points are awarded to either player for a miss.
  9. Repeat the drill until 1 player reaches 5 points. 

Drill Variations

  • Get creative with the agility course by adding more obstacles or sections. 
  • If you want to focus on player conditioning, consider increasing the winning points tally to 10. 
  • To add a fun twist, award point for nutmegs (kicking the ball through the defender’s legs).
  • If 1 player consistently passes through the grid faster than the other, consider lengthening their route to create a more even contest. 

Overload & Switch Play: Soccer Drill

Drill Outline

  • Drill Name: Overload & Switch Play
  • Session Length: 10  minutes
  • Age Group: 12+
  • Number of players: 10 
  • Skills learned: Long passing, heading, crossing, finishing, & tactics
  • Equipment: Full Field, 1 ball, 1 goal

Drill Setup

  • Line up 10 outfield players in a 4-4-2 formation. 
  • Instruct the center backs (D2 & D3) to occupy a high line, halfway between the center circle and the edge of the penalty box. 
  • Instruct the left back (D1) to push higher up the field, close to the halfway line. 
  • Instruct the right back (D4) to tuck in narrowly, near the center back.
  • Instruct the best passing midfielder (M1) to stand just behind the center circle and to be ready to make a long, diagonal pass.
Overload And Switch
Overload And Switch

Drill Instructions

  1. To start, the strikers take tip-off and pass the ball back to M1.
  2. As soon as the tip is taken, S1 and S2, W1, and D1 sprint down the left wing toward the edge of the penalty box. 
  3. D1, W1, and S1 turn to face the passer. S2 holds their run slightly, anticipating a knockdown. M2 moves into the left channel but keeps distance from the others to create space. 
  4. W3 and D4 run down the right channel, preparing for a back post entry to the penalty box. 
  5. M1 lofts the ball toward the overloaded side. 
  6. D1 and W1 communicate to determine who will head the ball, before cushioning the ball to M2 or S1 and S2. 
  7. The overload should drag the defense over to one side exposing the opposite post. 
  8. The ball is played back to M2, who then crosses the ball to the back post where the right back or right winger scores.

Drill Variations

  • Switch this drill to the opposite side of the field. 
  • Pull back a defender if you want to plan a less aggressive kickoff strategy. 
  • Push forward another center back for a more aggressive strategy. 
  • Use opposition defenders or mannequins to simulate defenders’ positions.

Soccer Blade has more than 100 drills – for more go to our soccer drills page. If you need equipment for your soccer drills, check out our soccer equipment page.

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