How to stop a counter attack in soccer | 10 Proven Tactics

Getting caught on the counter attack in soccer is incredibly frustrating and can be an absolute gut punch to a team. This post will go over how to stop a counter attack in soccer, ensuring you win more games. There is also a great small-sided game I use with my players that really helps to stop counter attacks.

How To Stop A Counter-Attack In Soccer | 10 Proven tactics

These are the 10 proven tips and tactics on how to stop a counterattack soccer:

  • Do not over-commit when attacking
  • Stagger your defenders
  • Always make sure you have 1 man over when defending
  • Don’t dive in
  • Use tactical fouls
  • Communicate
  • The goalkeeper should have a higher line
  • Force players into wide areas
  • A discipline holding midfielder
  • Work on the speed of transitions

The post goes into more detail about each method you can use to stop a counter attack in soccer

Do not over-commit when attacking

This seems like an obvious one but it is often the cause of many counter-attacking goals that are conceded.

When a team is attacking, defending goes to goes to the back of their mind.

Encourage your players to assess a situation in relation to their position and roles within the team before making a decision to join the attack.

Stagger your defenders

By staggering defenders, you will always have a defender being able to ‘sweep up’ any through balls or crosses that bypass the first defenders.

For example, if one center back went to challenge for the ball the other should drop off and cover.

There should always be one defender, usually a centre-back, that sits a little bit deeper and calls the defensive line.

Always make sure you have 1 man over when defending

When you are attacking make sure that you have enough defensive cover if the attack breaks down.

If the opposition team leaves 2 attackers up make sure you have 3 defenders back.

2 defenders should mark the attackers in a goal side position with 1 defender who is free, behind them to cover.

Don’t dive in, encourage your players to stand up to attackers

When defending a counterattack it is all hands on deck to ensure the other team does not score a goal.

The rush of blood to the head can cause players to dive in with a defend at all costs mentality.

If the player misses the ball they are out of the game and it gives an even greater numerical advantage to the attacking team.

Encourage your team to stand the defender up and buy enough time for your teammates to get back into a better defensive position.

Use tactical fouls

Committing tactical fouls are a great way to slow and prevent a team from counter-attacking at pace as it allows your team to recover and get back in position when the whistle is blown for the free-kick.

Be careful of where you commit the foul though, if you are the last player it will be a red card and it will put your team at a disadvantage.

The best area to commit a tactical foul would be around the halfway line.

This does come at a cost though with the player committing the foul usually getting a yellow card.


When defending a counter attacker your players’ communication has to be quick and concise.

This is important as players will be tracking back to cover space they are not used to in their positions.

Giving information such as where opposing teams players are making runs to, what space needs to be covered, and who is going to the ball can make a huge difference when stopping a counter-attack in soccer.

Push your keeper further up

A way in which a team may counter-attack is by playing a long ball over the top for an attacker to try and chase down.

If the ball goes over the head of the defender and the keeper is pushed up a little higher the keeper is in a great position to come out and win the ball or bring it under control if they have time.

If a keeper is hesitant or standing too far back they will get caught in no man’s land and allow the striker to finish an easy 1v1.

This is why it is important to help develop your keepers’ passing and receiving skills.

Make sure your holding midfielder does not go missing

A holding midfielder has the role of breaking down opposition attacks before they get to the defenders.

A great holding midfielder is able to read the game, win the ball and help set up attacks.

However, if this player goes missing or is caught out of position this leaves a huge space in the middle of the midfield for the opposing team to attack.

The defenders are then caught in 2 minds as to whether to go to the ball or allow them to dribble closer towards the goal.

If a defender commits they will leave behind another space an attacker to exploit but if they do not attack they run the risk of the attacking coming into shooting territory on the goal.

Force players into wide areas

As well as standing players up to bide time for your teammates to get back your should be encouraging your team to show the attackers into wide areas.

By forcing the attackers into wide areas you are showing them away from the goal and reducing their chances of finding a pass or shot on goal.

Transition faster in soccer

A transition occurs when possession changes from one team to another.

The team that lost the ball will transition from an attacking mindset to a defending mindset and the team that won the ball will transition from a defending mind to an attacking mindset.

The quicker a team is able to react to the transition than their opponents, the greater the advantage that has at counter-attacking or stop stopping the counter-attack.

For your team to be successful at stopping the counterattack in soccer you must ensure that they are able to react quickly to transition from attack to defense.

The small-sided soccer game to stop the counterattack

The best way for players to learn these tactics would be in small-sided game scenarios, you can also add certain conditions to make certain behaviors occur more frequently.

This is how the small-sided game works.


The purpose of this small-sided soccer drill is to encourage players to transition quickly from an attacking mindset to a defending mindset in a game-like scenario.

Set up:

  • 30 x 50-yard area
  • 2 goals
  • Clear halfway line
  • 2 equal teams of 4 or 5


This will be a normal scrimmage however if the attacking team is able to score a goal before the defending team is able to get all their players back in their own half then the goal will be worth 3 points.

If the attacking team scores when the defending teams’ players are all in their half the goal will be worth 1 point.

The winning team will be the team that has the most points.

Coaching points:

  • React quickly and get back into a defensive shape with the change of possession
  • Stand the attackers up and force them away from the goal to bide time for your teammates to get back in position.
  • Communicate with your teammates to help them know what is going on around them

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • When your team has lost possession of the ball what should you be thinking?
  • How can you bide time for your teammates to get back in position?
  • What can you do to help your teammates know what is going on around them?

How to stop a counter attack conclusion

I hope this post has helped you and your team on how to stop a counterattack in soccer.

By including more transitions in your session you will help your players react quickly to changes of possession and how that affects their responsibilities in the team.

Also by working on minor tactics and encouraging certain behaviors in your players, over the long term your players will build a solid foundation on how they can stop counter-attacks in the long term

Remember there is no magic formula or tactic that will help your team stop counterattacks overnight.

If you found this helpful or have any other useful tips on how to stop a counterattack in soccer then please share your idea in the comment section.

Now you know how to stop a counter-attack, this is how you start a counter-attacker in soccer.

Also if you know a coach who would find this helpful then please share it with them using our social media buttons.

Thank you,


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