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If you aren't scoring many goals, it is due to one of two reasons:

  1. You aren't getting enough shots on goal

  2. You are getting shots but they aren't scoring.

If the problem is No. 1, ask yourself these questions:

  1.  Are you getting enough players into shooting range (i.e., into the Penalty Box)?

  2. Are your players "crossing" or "centering" the ball into the Penalty Box to create scoring opportunities?

  3. Do you have someone off the far post? You will get 3 or 4 opportunities per game if you have an attacker (a F or MF) play off the Far Post.

  4. Do you teach the concepts of "First Attacker", "Second Attacker", and "Third Attacker"? (The First Attacker must have support).

If the problem is No. 2, ask yourself these questions:

  1.  Are shots from too far out? (It is tough to score with long shots against a good, tall goal keeper, but shooting at the top of the goal can be a good tactic against a short goalie and can create opportunities off rebounds).

  2. If close in, are shots low and to the corner? (See "Finish").

  3. Do your players follow the shot for rebounds? (See "Rebound").

See the Dictionary, "Attacking", "Attacking Plan", "Finish", "Formations", "First Attacker" & Tips for more ideas. Also, see the section titled "Evaluating Your Teams Play". The book contains additional tips related to scoring.


Obviously, for any goal to be scored there must be a shot from within scoring range. Thus, as discussed above, a simple way to increase your chances of scoring is to increase your number of quality shots. It can be useful to think about how most goals are scored. By this I mean the build-up or actions that lead to goals. From the list below, you can think about which might work for your team.

What your team can do depends upon the age and skill level of your players and the amount of time your entire team practices. If you have a typical recreational team with some skillful players, some unathletic players and limited practice time, it is unrealistic to expect your team to play like a select team that practices 4 hours per week. However, you can keep in mind that most goals are scored by getting players into scoring position and then passing, crossing, or centering the ball into the other team's Penalty Box. In any case, you can only win if your players hustle and win the ball. At Forward, an alert, quick player who will fight for the ball may be better than a faster, more skillful player.

1. Goals Scored From In Front Of The Goal (Obviously, to score from in front of your goal, your team must be onside, which means the defenders are defending deep, or you have moved the ball near the other team's goal line).

a.      Crossing Passes. A "cross" is when the ball is kicked from the right or left side of the field toward the area in front of the goal. A cross is often not a pass to a specific person as much as a kicking of the ball to the space in front of the goal with the expectation that one or more teammates will be there. Advancing the ball down the sideline is a good tactic because it allows teammates to move toward the other teams goal without being "offside". Thus, it can allow attackers to move into scoring position. It also has the advantages of "Spreading the Field" and creating "Width in Attack". "Long Corner Kicks" are a type of "cross". (See "Creating Space", "Cross", "Spread the Field", "Pass to Space", and "Width in Attack").

b.      Centered Balls. When you make a "cross" you are "centering the ball". Thus, the two concepts are similar. However, the term "cross" means to center the ball from the side of the field, whereas the ball can be "centered" from any place on the field. (See "Center The Ball", and "Pass To Space").

c.      Rebounds. If your players will follow shots and be alert, they will get several good scoring opportunities per game from rebounds. Encourage one-touch shots on rebounds. (See "Rebound").

2. Breakaways. Often, these occur when an attacker runs onto a "Through Ball". This can be especially effective if the other teams FB's push up on their attack. (See "Breakaway", "Counterattack", "Attacking Plan", "Through Ball", "Formations", "Push Up", and "Spread the Field").

3. Combination Passing In The "Attacking Third". You should encourage passing in the attacking third. Teach your players to pass they have a pass and to only dribble if they don't have a pass or can dribble and score. The exception to this might be if you have a brilliant dribbler, but even then it is a bad habit to try to dribble through all the defenders because it doesn't encourage teamwork and a good dribbler can be stopped by assigning a defender to "shadow mark" him. (See "Combination Play", "Creating Space", "When To Dribble", "Give and Go", and "Finish").

4. Free Kicks and "Corner Kicks". "Free Kicks" and "Corner Kicks" are two types of "set plays" that result in scoring opportunities. Both create good rebound opportunities and free kicks (both direct and indirect) give the opportunity for direct shots on goal (although a player must touch the indirect kick first). (See "Free Kick" and "Corner Kick").

5. Long Shots. Long ground balls rarely score in rec soccer, but long air balls can be effective, especially against a short or slow goalie, or if the ball is wet. The key to these long air balls is accuracy; chips usually score more than hard drives. Long shots can also result in rebound opportunities, either off the goalie or off the goal. A mistake many youth make is playing too close to the goal for rebounds with the result that the rebound bounces behind them. It is better to stay 5 or 6 steps from the goal.

6. Dribbling. A great dribbler can be very effective in scoring and in creating scoring opportunities by pulling multiple defenders toward him, which leaves teammates open. In the past two seasons my team has only lost one game and we lost that one because a great dribbler scored 4 goals. I coach a rec team and don't like to assign a "shadow marker", but I should have in that game and will the next time we play against a dribbler of that skill. If you have a great dribbler on your team, a very effective tactic is to have him attack the goal, but have a Second Attacker trail him to be ready for a Back Pass and have another Second Attacker go to the goal front or The Far Post (ideally one to the Near Post and another to the Far Post). Teach the dribbler to look for an open teammate or to center the ball. (See "Combination Passing" above, "First Attacker", "Formations", "Creating Space", "Finish", and "When To Dribble").

7. Penalty Kicks ("PK's"). You will get few chances to score on Penalty Kicks. However, there are 2 things to teach your teams:

(See "Penalty Kick").


Scoring goals isn't all about skill, it has a lot to do with hustle, teamwork, winning the ball, the formation and style of play you use, and your ability as a coach to motivate your team and to put players in a position where they can help your team score. You can't turn unathletic players into great athletes or greatly improve the skill of players who don't come to practice, but there are some things you can do:

1.      Encourage hustle and alertness.

2.      Encourage "winning the ball". This is critical for all of your players at every position. The team that wins the ball the most usually wins the game. (See "Win The Ball").

3.      Encourage teamwork and support; teach the concepts of "First Attacker", "Second Attacker", and "Third Attacker". (See "First Attacker" and "Support").

4.      Encourage following shots for rebounds. (See "Rebound" and "Finish).

5.      Encourage your Forwards to aggressively pressure the ball when they lose it i the "Attacking Third" and try to win it back. If they are called for a foul, it won't hurt you since the ball is far away from your goal.

6.      Bring up "numbers" on your attack and try to get several Forwards into The Penalty Box and two midfielders just outside The Penalty Box for support. One way to move Forwards up is to attack down the side and then try to cross the ball into the "center" (i.e., into The Penalty Box).

7.      Encourage the "Far Forward" (i.e., the Forward farthest from the ball) or the Far MF to play off the "Far Post" when you attack. In every game will be 3 or 4 good scoring opportunities off the Far Post. The key is to hold position and to be patient, alert, opportunistic and to take quick one-touch shots before The Goalie can recover.

8.      Encourage one-touch shots in front of the goal. Your attackers will often have an opportunity to score on a one-touch shot but will be shut down if they try to dribble or even two-touch.

9.      Try "short corners" 50% of the time. Your chances of scoring on short corners are better than on long corners and you will improve by keeping the defense off balance. My favorite short corner is to have an attacker stand one foot in front of the kicker facing the goal with his legs apart. (Put several other attackers in front of the goal. The defenders must stay 10 yards away until the ball is kicked by kicker; if they are too close ask the referee to make them back up). The "kicker" taps the ball thru the "receivers" legs and the receiver dribbles along the end line with the "kicker" running beside him (about 5 steps away) toward the goal. (Choose 2 good dribblers for the kicker and receiver). Tell the receiver to try to penetrate all the way to goal and to try to pass or chip the ball to the front the goal, where his teammates are positioned. If he gets stopped, he can pass to the "kicker", and if a defender steals the ball the kicker and receiver should aggressively pressure to try to win it back. This short corner plan is easy to teach and can be very effective. One advantage is that by dribbling along the end line your offball attackers are "onside" and defenders tend "ball watch" so you have a good chance can center the ball to the front of the goal.

10. In certain cases, encourage long shots at the top of the goal. Long shots, and even long chips, can be effective in the following cases and can result in rebound opportunities:

a. Against a short goalie

b. Against a slow goalie

c. On a wet day or if the grass is wet (i.e., if the ball is slick a high shot is hard to hold)

d. If the defenders aren't pressuring long shots (e.g., if they are packed into the Penalty Box)

(See "Long Shots" in the preceding section titled "How Most Goals Are Scored").

11. On the other teams Goal Kicks, Punts and Throw Ins, teach your players to mark up behind an opponent and step in front and steal the ball. This tactic will help your team hugely and result in more scoring opportunities. It help both your defense, since your players will be in good position to defend if the opponent gets the ball, and it helps your offense by creating turnover opportunities. By marking behind the opponent, your players can see what the opponent is doing and if the ball goes over their head (e.g., on a Goal Kick). They can box out the opponent and have an advantage, or if the ball is short they can step in front of the opponent to win it. (See "Coaching Rules No. 1, 2, and 3).

12. Big Throw-Ins can create scoring opportunities. In one of our pre-season practices I always line everyone up to be sure they know the proper technique for an Advanced Throw-In (See "Skills" or "How To Teach Proper Techniques" for how to teach an Advanced Throw-In). At this time, we also have a contest to see who can make the longest throw-in. If you have a player who can make a long throw-in, consider saving them for 2 occasions:

a. To create a breakaway. This is possible if you are near the halfway line and the other teams FB's are pushed up. Have a fast receiver start close to the thrower and then quickly run down the line. As soon as the receiver breaks, have the thrower make a long throw down the line. Other Forwards should run toward goal for a "cross". Remember, a player is not offside if he receives the ball direct from a throw-in.

b. Throw into scoring range. This is possible if the throw-in occurs in your "Attacking Third". Try to do this quickly before the other team is in position. Simply put 4 or 5 players in scoring position and have the thrower throw the ball toward them. Your attackers must fight for the ball and win it. If they have the opportunity for a quick one-touch or two-touch shot, they should take it. My team scored a goal last season this way. As a diversion, you can put a player down the sideline which may pull several defenders away from the goal.

13. Teach "Passing To Space", as opposed to "Passing To Feet". Passing to Space:

a. Allows a quick counterattack

b. Encourages "movement off the ball"

c. Is a more creative attacking style and encourages players to think about how to use open space to advance the attack.

d. Teaches attackers to be alert and opportunistic and that they must go to the ball and not wait for the ball to come to them.

14. Teach your players how to "chip" the ball. This is important for long shots, to "clear" the ball, and for "over-the-top" passes.

15. Have an Attacking Plan. .

16. Use a Formation that works for your team.

17. Use a "Style of Play" that works for your team. y.

18. Assign players to positions where they can be successful and help the team.

19. When your goal is under attack, be sure your Offensive MF's and Fowards stay the proper distance from the ball, shift with the ball side to side, and position themselves to win a pass or a cleared ball.

Last Updated: 09/23/2003