Center Counter-Attack

Detailed Overview


Center counter attack sketch

The center counter-attack is a conditions driven option that takes advantage of the speed and skill of our stopper or center backs. In the center counter-attack, we attack right through the center of the field directly at the opponent's goal.  

To start the attack, the midfielder or defender regains possession of the ball in our defensive half of the field. She quickly assesses that the opponent's defense has dropped back from the center midfield line AND that the opponents center midfielder(s) is away from the center of the field leaving an empty space where the gray box is depicted in the sketch. Our stopper also sees this opportunity and makes a fast run straight up the field asking for the ball. Our player with the ball makes a fast push pass along the ground leading the stopper forward into the attack. Speed is critical. The stopper takes the ball and rapidly dribbles toward the opponent's goal. The two forwards time their supporting runs to be just outside the opponent's center backs so they are able to do a give-and-go with our attacking stopper or receive a through pass from her if the center backs close on her quickly. Our attacking center midfielder provides a supporting run along the stopper's flank providing support as required and ready to take a long distance shot from outside the 18.   

The remaining midfielders and defenders primarily move forward with the priority of preparing for the opponent's counter attack in the event that we do not score and lose possession of the ball. If our forwards and stopper retain control of the ball, but do not score our midfielders will push forward into our 3-5-2 formation and transition into a tiki-taka style of play.   

Decision Criteria to Execute

These are the factors that must be true for us to transition into the long counter-attack:

  • Opponent's defenders are backed off the center midfield line.
  • Opponent's center midfielder(s) is away from the center of the field and the area is vacant
  • Our stopper or one of the center backs are forward of our 18 ready to make the attacking run

Detailed Method (Step by Step)

  1. Midfielder gains possession of the ball from the opponent
  2. Assesses the situation and decides to go center counter attack
  3. Passes a fast ball along the ground into the "gray box"
  4. Stopper (center back) sees the center of the field is open and makes a fast run up the center of the field
  5. Stopper traps the ball at full speed while moving towards the goal
  6. Forwards pull the defenders away from the center of the field and then position themselves for a give-and-go pass
  7. Attacking center midfielder makes a supporting run to the top of the 18 
  8. Midfielders and defenders position to disrupt counter attack
  9. Stopper scores, or passes to a forward or supporting attacking center midfielder who scores
  10. Celebrate
  11. Repeat

Key Game Awareness

  • Are the opponent's defenders back from the center midfield line?
  • Is the center of the field empty of midfielders?

Key Game Understanding

  • Can we successfully pass the ball into the center of the field to the stopper who can create a good goal scoring opportunity?

Critical Skills

  • Stopper: Game understanding to see the opportunity
  • Stopper: trapping on the run
  • Stopper: fast dribble attacking opponent goal
  • Stopper: give-and-go pass and run
  • Stopper: through pass to forward
  • Stopper: shoot
  • Forward: create space for the stopper to attack through
  • Forward: supporting runs
  • Forward: give-and-go pass
  • Midfielder and defender (with ball): transition from defense to offense (gain possession of the ball and rapidly position the ball for a pass)
  • Midfielder and defender (with ball): game understanding to see the opportunity
  • Midfielder and defender (with ball): fast, accurate push pass along the ground


The center counter-attack will likely be available after we have tried two or three long counter-attacks. These long balls will condition the opponent's defenders to back up which will help create space in the center of the field. Additionally, as their midfielders push forward and search for scoring opportunities against our five defenders they will take more and more risk in the center of the field. It is at this point that the opportunity for the center counter-attack will arise. If this attack fails and we transition to tiki-taka we need to be very careful that the stopper and the center backs communicate as we transition back to three defenders and five midfielders.