Improving 3 vs. 3 Soccer Skills for Players and Coaches
Interesting Technique From Nationals

I thought I would mention a novel tactic that I saw being used by a youth team at nationals that some teams might want to keep in their arsenal of plays.  This team had one very fast and very skilled boy who played in the back.  Their tactic was to give him the ball in the back, and he would back up nearly to his goal to entice someone from the other team to pressure him.  Once pressured, he would dribble around the pressuring player (using phenomenal speed and skill) and try to create an offensive attack with three players against two before the pressuring player could get back.  Sometimes it worked, even though I believe that his team ultimately lost the playoff game I watched.  But it was novel because I have never before seen anyone retreat back to their own goal with the ball for the sole purpose of creating offense.

Obviously, this tactic has its limitations.  In the first place, most adult teams would not be goaded into pressuring in a situation such as this, particularly if he had already burned them once with his speed and skill.  Second, against fast teams the pressuring player can usually get back into the defense quickly enough to make a difference.  Third, and perhaps most importantly, this tactic would not seem to work when the team with the ball is losing the game.

But I mention it because it can be instructive.  First, it teaches us that pressuring in this game works best as a tactic to make up for a deficit.  Second, a team with one fast player might be able to use this play once during a game for a quick goal, if it had planned out this strategy beforehand.  You are never too old to learn, and I am always trying to learn from the youth games I watch while I am at a tournament.  Because it was unusual and potentially useful, I decided to mention it here.  Let me know if anyone else has had a similar experience.

Another Disney National Finals Completed

Over the weekend of January 13-15 we once again went to Orlando to play in Disney's annual 3v3 soccer extravaganza.  It is difficult for me to believe, but this tournament has been a part of my life for 19 years now.  All but one of those years I have played on a team in the tournament.  My first national title was in January of 1999, and I have been enjoying the competition in Orlando ever since (although the first tournament was actually held in Pensacola, before being moved to Orlando).  I have a lot of wonderful memories from tournaments past, and I always enjoy the friendships and good times even more than the soccer.

This year, the team my friend Wes fielded was once again called the Travelers, and we faced a field of 10 total teams in the men's open division.  Our team included Wes, Peter, Daniel, Steve, Aldo, and myself.  As always, my teammates were good guys and easy to play alongside.  That said, there were some very tough young teams again in this contest, and we knew as we went to team registration on Friday that we would have a difficult time overcoming the odds and our age.  Once again, I was the oldest player in the tournament, with Wes less than a year younger.  That burden alone would sink most teams playing against 20 year old guys, but the rest of our team was in their 30's and 40's.  In short, it would be a battle to place in the top five teams.

I arrived late Wednesday night at the Seralago, and the weather the next day was wonderful.  Perfect for sunbathing by the pool.  However, the next day a cold front came in which brought rain, wind, clouds, and much colder temperatures.  Saturday was partly cloudy, windy, and cold.  Sunday and Monday were sunny, but still chilly.  Wes and his new wife arrived in time for dinner on Thursday, as did our friend Lisa.  The rest of our crowd, Peter, Daniel, Sylvia, Diane, Steve, and Aldo did not arrive until Friday or Saturday morning in Peter's case.  For me, pre-tournament time was perfect for shopping, eating, cruising, and sunbathing.

On Saturday morning at 10:15 we first faced the Footmasters FC, a young team from Texas.  They jumped on us early, as we appeared to still be groggy from travel.  Often it takes us old men extra time to get warmed up, and this was no exception.  By halftime we were already down 5-1.  However, in the second half Peter and Daniel turned on the afterburners and coaxed some errors from the other team when we pressured them.  We succeeded in closing the gap to 6-4 before time ran out on us.  We certainly were not pleased by the outcome, but we knew we had not played our best game.

In our second game we faced another young team called Net Six and Chill from somewhere in Florida.  This game was a seesaw battle that we should have won.  We went down in the first half but came back to lead by a goal twice late in the second half.  Unfortunately, we managed to squander both of those leads, and allowed them to tie us.  All of the scoring in the first two games came from Daniel and Peter.  The lone exception was when Wes coaxed a breakaway foul in the second half of the second game, thereby drawing a penalty kick.  I put the PK in, which made up for some of what I felt was my own poor defense during that game.

By our third game we felt that our situation had become more dire, and we were in need of a win.  Although we played a team at 2:55 from New Jersey called the Old Men, we were not surprised to learn that we were a good bit older than the Old Men.  To make matters worse, the Old Men had two or three very young fast players playing with them that made life difficult for us.  We went up 1-0 in the first half, and the score should have been 2-0, but Peter understandably decided not to touch a ball from Aldo that was rolling into the goal, and the referee called the goal back because it had not been touched in the offensive side of the field.  In the second half the young guys on the Old Men played most of the half and pressured us, causing enough mistakes to allow them to go up 2-1 on us.  But later in the half Daniel and I switched positions briefly in the offensive zone, and Peter drew most of the defense.  Daniel then drew the remaining defender to him and passed to me for a near side goal that tied the score.  Peter then finished off the scoring for a very close 3-2 win.  With Sunday's games looming, we found ourselves in sixth place - good enough to make the playoffs, but with a poor initial playoff matchup.

Sunday morning we faced our toughest opponent yet.  Trouble Brewing was a group of five young men from Indiana, who were clearly better than any opposition we had yet faced.  We again appeared groggy for our 10:15 game, and Trouble Brewing took full advantage of our lethargy.  In short, we were down 4-0 before six minutes had ticked off the clock.  When I subbed in, I tried in vain to keep Trouble Brewing from our goal, but found that their young legs were quicker than ours.  Also, because their team was so tall, we had little goal to shoot at, and we couldn't try to chip the ball over them either.  Trouble Brewing was also smart enough to play keep away, forcing us to pressure them, which led to several late goals.  The final score was 8-0, and our ranking then fell to seventh - barely within the playoffs, but again with a poor initial playoff matchup.

We knew then that we had to do well in our final game on Sunday if we were to have a good tournament, and fortunately we were up to the task.  Team Sushi is a young Florida team that had wanted to play in the coed division, but like us found there to be insufficient coed teams.  Therefore, like us they put together a full men's team and came anyway.  In our game against Team Sushi, our defense prevailed.  Steve and I held the back, and Aldo, Wes, Daniel, and Peter provided an impenetrable wall ahead of us.  Although the Sushi boys were able to get a late goal on us when I failed to get my knee down on a block, the game was over by then.  Peter, Daniel, and Aldo had already put us up 5-0.  Thus, the final score was 5-1 in our favor, which gave us the fifth seed (2-2-1) - enough to play the fourth place team in the first round of the playoffs.  Wilson United was our opponent at 2:55, and we basked in our good fortune of placing fifth as we waited to play them.

Wilson United is a careful team that has come to the tournament from North Carolina in years past, and we have been able to beat them in the past.  Our defense continued to hold early on in the game as we went up by two or three goals before they got their first goal.  We were getting tired, however, and Wilson United succeeded in coming back on us to make it a 4-3 game in our favor.  But then Daniel scored a "miracle" goal from a bad angle in the corner, and Peter put in another goal to put the game away by a score of 6-4.  We had made it through the quarter finals to be a top four team!

But we knew that our luck probably stopped there.  The other three teams were Trouble Brewing and two other young teams that had destroyed the competition during pool play.  Plus, we faced the top ranked team, Soccer Playa$, at 9:35 in our first semi final game.  We went out to eat that night at the Rain Forest Café happy with our situation, but knowing that we would need a miracle to make it much farther.

When 9:35 on Monday rolled around, and we had checked out of the hotel, we all met at the fields to try to put on a good showing against the undefeated Soccer Playa$.  Their team, from Florida, consisted of four very young fast guys and one older (perhaps 35) guy who seemed like their coach.  We knew that our best shot was to play hard defense and keep the game close, and we started out with Peter, Daniel, and me to try to do just that.  Our plan was successful, but not successful enough to overcome them.  We scored first, as Peter scored on a nice run down the side when I gave him a curling lead pass.  They came back to tie at 1-1, and we almost made it to half time with that score, but they scored a nice goal against us just before the halftime whistle.  In the second half of the game we got tired, and they ended up scoring five goals to our two, although one of theirs was at the final whistle again.  The final score was 7-3 Playa$.

Tired, we had to play against Trouble Brewing for third place, as they had lost to the second place team by one late goal.  Trouble Brewing said that they had two of their five players injured, but only one of their two injuries affected their play.  As always, they also had youth on their side.  They went ahead on us by three goals before we were able to retaliate.  Wes scored a late goal on a nice play and Peter also scored one on a blast from outside, but their defense was otherwise sound and we fell to a fourth place finish by the score of 5-2.

We felt very privileged to have placed in the top four teams in this tournament again this year.  Much of the credit goes to our fans, Sylvia, Diane, and Lisa, for cheering us on and for helping us with time, photography, and ball chasing.  Many thanks to Wes, my teammates, and our fans for another great tournament this year.  I will have to see if I can make it down to Orlando next year.  At some point, coaching rather than playing, is in my future!

The Perils of Soccer Aging

OK - so I know that most of you come to this site to find out more about 3v3 soccer from a tactical standpoint.  But I decided to deviate a bit just because I wanted to moan about how difficult it is to continue playing soccer competitively at my age (54).

Older soccer players face a myriad of difficulties.  There are late hours at work, family commitments, and chores that take away from soccer and training time.  There is the need to train more than ever to stay in shape despite advancing age.  There are the many injuries (including overuse injuries) that are likely to occur when you train and play soccer in your later years.  And there is the declining performance on the field.  

Nonetheless, an older soccer player who stays committed can stave off age and still be productive and have fun on the field.  One example of such a player is my friend Wes, who plays a lot of 3 vs 3 and who manages to still contribute on the field.  Of course, it helps that the 3 vs. 3 game is much more suited to older players because the small side of the field makes player speed much less of a factor.

I have been trying to defeat father time too, but I have run up against a brick wall recently.  I have been dogged by Achilles tendonitis for over 20 years, and it has made playing difficult for me.  Often it has reduced the quality of my play, made playing difficult and painful, and even stopped me from playing altogether.  Recently, I have been unable to play soccer because of the advance of this condition.  However, today I hope that I took a first step to returning to the field.  I received an amniotic tissue injection in my tendon that is geared towards signaling to my body to heal the problems in that area.  Let's hope that it works!  I sure would like to get back out on the field and report back on the latest tactics.  Indeed, the yearly Disney tournament is coming up soon!

Soccerfest Pictures

Look for Soccerfest pictures to be published soon on the 2017 photos page!

Results from Northern Virginia Soccerfest

I got the chance to join my buddy Wes this past weekend for the Northern Virginia Soccerfest 4 vs. 4 tournament, and it was a lot of fun.  Our coed team, the Travelers, was very competitive, and we ended up winning the tournament in large part because we stuck to the soccer principles discussed at length in my book "3 vs. 3 Soccer".  All in all, it was a great weekend of fun, and the fact that we took first place in the tournament made it all that much better.

My team consisted of Bryan, Wes, Wa-Sung, Diane, Jacky, and myself.  Our teammates were saddled with the fact that Wes and I (both age 54) were easily the oldest players in the tournament (as we are in most tournaments).  However, this tournament was noteworthy in that some of the players on the opposing teams were as young as 14 years old!  I felt like telling them that I was almost 4 times their age, but I kept my age-related lunacy to myself.

In our first game, we played a team with seven ladies and one man who were all on a under-19 team.  They were not the youngest team in the tournament (more on that later), but they kept the game very close through half time.  In the second half we broke on top by a couple of goals, and then played keep away (Four Corners).  Bryan contributed nearly all of the offense in the game, and the ladies and Wes joined me in playing tight defense.  The final score was 4-1, and we went on to play our next game against a legitimate coed team.  The coed team played us very well and stuck to a very defensive plan.  However, Bryan scored a goal against them that brought us to a 1-1 tie.  Once again, our defense led by Wes, Diane, Jacky, and Wa-Sung kept the other team from getting any more than one goal.

We continued our tough defense in our third game, when we played a well-coached team of 14-16 year old girls with their coach and one other guy on their roster.  Since, they had beaten both of the other teams, this was a showdown for the top spot in the playoff game.  The young folks were again frustrated by our stifling defense, and were unable to put in more than one goal.  In the meantime, we were able to counter attack and go up by a goal or two.  Wes and Bryan again contributed the offense.  Once we were on top, we spread out and played keep away, which resulted in more scoring chances.  Although the final score was 4-1 in our favor, we felt like this team was going to make things difficult for us in the upcoming playoff game for first place.

And we were not disappointed.  By now, we were somewhat tired, and in the final the young folks took advantage of their youth, their good coaching, and their superior numbers.  On the other hand, we were a bigger and stronger team.  Plus, we had our defensive trump card.  After about 5 minutes of play, the other team snuck their coach onto the field when we were distracted, and he came through the middle to receive a pass and score on a nice shot.  We then played a good bit of the game down 1-0, but we were always in the game.  Our ladies, Wes, and Bryan kept hounding them and eventually our opportunistic offense resulted in a goal by Bryan on a nice shot.  The game ended in a 1-1 tie, and Bryan scored quickly in the resulting sudden death overtime.  On the kickoff, Bryan gave the ball to me, and I moved it to Wes on the right side.  The other team made the mistake of pushing into our zone with their two male players.  This left Bryan open, and Wes fed him the ball.  Bryan used his size and strength to turn and score on a nice long shot.  Although the title was ours, hats off to the team we played in the finals.  They have a great future in the 3 v 3 game and elsewhere in soccer!

A big thank you to all of our friends who came out to watch us play, and to everyone who supported our soccer weekend.  It was great to visit Baltimore again.  Perhaps we will put a team into the upcoming regionals.


The Case for Rapid Ball Movement

One topic that I have not discussed enough on this blog is rapid ball movement.  In my view, this is the most effective form of offense in 3 vs. 3 soccer, and when properly accomplished can give any team a distinct advantage in any soccer game.  The point of rapid ball movement is to pass rapidly and accurately to teammates who are always moving into position to receive a pass.  Passes must be strong and accurate, and players receiving the ball must be able to immediately trap the ball at their feet without allowing it to bounce far from them.  The strategy here is to keep the other team always off balance by shifting the ball to different locations on the field quickly and accurately, thus forcing the other team to constantly readjust its positioning and tactics.  The eventual goal is to open up a hole in the defense due to neglect, miscommunication, or exhaustion of the defenders, though which a goal can be scored.


Teams from Central and South America are usually very good at rapid ball movement, as that style of play is fostered in those countries.  The team that easily won the national championship in 3 vs. 3 in Orlando in January of 2017 was very good at this type of offense.  And there should be little debate that rapid ball movement is the ultimate offensive tactic.  The ball can be moved more quickly and more tirelessly than players can move.


However, rapid ball movement is not practiced by all teams.  There are many reasons for this.  First, rapid ball movement must be adopted by every player on the field, particularly in 3 vs. 3.  One player who plays differently can ruin things.  Second, all of the players need to be in very good shape to make it work.  Third, each player must have very good ball skills in order to move the ball the way it needs to be moved.  Finally, each player must also commit to defense, and to moving into position to receive the ball whenever they do not have it.  All of these things are essential to rapid ball movement.


I hope to soon post some drills which can help players to ready themselves for rapid ball movement.  In the interim, think about committing to this style of play.  You won't be disappointed if you do it correctly!

Coaching 3 vs. 3 Soccer

One topic I have not raised before in this blog is the topic of coaching a 3 vs. 3 soccer team.  Most coaches know how to coach soccer.  But are there any special issues that arise in 3 vs. 3 soccer that occur less often in other contexts?

First, there are the logistics.  Whereas an ordinary soccer coach meets his or her team at the field for a weekly game or practices, there are serious logistics involved in putting together a 3 vs. 3 team that travels to tournaments.  First, a coach must gain commitments from players (or perhaps parents of players) who will enjoy and thrive in the 3 vs. 3 game.  Not all successful soccer players fit into this category.  Usually players who are successful in 3 vs. 3 are skilled ball handlers, good defenders, and players who don't hesitate to run during their entire shift.  When traveling, it is essential that the players get along with each other because a spat can ruin the entire tournament for everyone.  Second, the coach should register the team and collect fees from players.  Lodging must be secured for travel tournaments and paid for.  Players must bring essential gear - the usual equipment plus chair, food, drink, clothes, and a tent if it is hot.  Finally, the coach must make sure that everyone arrives on time to be checked in and play in the first game.  Sometimes a team's first game is the most important.

While at the field, a coach must run substitutions more often than in large field soccer.  Players tire quickly in 3 vs. 3 and substitutions are frequent as a result.  Care must be taken so that the players on the field compliment each other, and understand and play the positions to which they are assigned.  Strategy can be very important in 3 vs. 3, so a coach must watch the game carefully to determine whether a new and different strategy is appropriate, depending upon the score, the opponent, and the strengths and weaknesses of the players on the field.  Should we pressure the other team or drop back on defense?  Should we possess the ball on offense or push for a late goal?

One very important duty for a 3 vs. 3 coach is to determine whether each player is in the proper position on the field for offense and defense.  Positioning is incredibly important in 3 vs. 3 soccer, and a coach should be always looking at where his or her players are standing on the field, and whether they are making themselves available for a pass, or positioning themselves properly on defense.  Every time that I see a goal scored in 3 vs. 3, I can trace that goal back to positioning of the offensive players and the defensive players.  This issue is much more important on small 3 vs. 3 fields than it is in 11-aside.

Finally, a coach should keep his or her players on an even keel during a tournament.  Players can become discouraged or begin fighting after an early tournament loss or two, but I have seen teams come back again and again in tournaments, so a coach's hand in the team's emotional balance is also important.

The duties of a coach in preparing his or her team for a tournament beforehand can be the subject of a future blog!

Post Tournament Thoughts

It has now been two or three weeks since the Disney 3v3 tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.  It's time to share a few thoughts on the tournament.
(1)  In the adult men's side of the tournament the Amoot Habibi's were far and away the best team in the tournament.  They beat our men's team 8-1, and that was the closest game they had all tournament.  They beat last year's champion (LVH) 12-3 in pool play and then came back to beat them 10-1 in the final.  Their precise passing and ball skills, stamina, and swarming defense were unstoppable.  Let's give credit where credit is due.  This was a very well trained team.  It looked like they had a large number of smart coaches who had practiced them for this tournament.
(2)  If things had gone right for our men's team, we definitely could have taken second place.  Unfortunately, an injury to Israel and a couple of tough luck situations kept us out of the final.  However, it is worth noting that in pool play our team beat the third place team, tied the fourth place team (even though shorthanded), and the second place team had to score twice in the final minutes to tie our shorthanded squad.
(3)  The coed division was much closer, even though Old School Dragons beat Team Sushi handily in the finals.  Our team played good defense, and kept all of the games close even though we were shorthanded for most of the tournament.  Our worst loss was by 2 goals.  The Old School Dragons beat us 6-4, but it was closer than the score indicates.  Two of our games were determined by shootouts, and we gave up less than 3 goals per game averaged throughout the tournament.
(4)  The size of the tournament seemed to continue to shrink.  We had 2 teams and were 20% of the adult tournament as a result.  It is tough to gauge whether the kids divisions were smaller than last year, but it seems like much less of the complex is being used for the tournament than has been the case in years past.  Those of you in the soccer community, please try to bring a team next year (or to a locals near you) as it is a fun tournament and the adult division is an important part of the festivities.
(5)  Why do they keep changing the name of the complex?  It is now the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, although it still appears to be owned by Disney.  I guess corporate sponsorship is important, but it would help if those sponsorship contracts were longer-term than the players are.  (I can say this because I have been playing in this tournament since 1998).
(6)  So much of the fun at these tournaments is the chance to have a fun weekend out of town with friends, teammates, and fans.  Those of you who are thinking of entering a team in a local, regional, or national tournament - please do!  And bring some family and friends along with you.  Our teams are greatly indebted to our fans, many of whom come from far off to watch us play.  Thank you to all who participated with us!
(7)  Defense wins games!  So many games we watched in Orlando were won by the team that played the strongest defense.  Don't forget to practice defensive tactics before the next tournament!

Orlando Tournament Results

In 2017 we fielded two teams at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Disney tournament in Orlando, Florida.  We had a nice group of 17 folks at the tournament who all had a wonderful time playing 3 vs. 3 soccer or cheering on our teams.  The weather was good for the most part over the MLK holiday weekend, and our teams were both very competitive in their respective fields.  A big thank you to everyone who attended and assisted, especially to our club coach and administrator Wes, and our great fans!

Our Men's Open team (The Travelers) was very competitive from the beginning.  The team consisted of Wes, Adam, Israel, Daniel, Peter, and Ed.  Israel and Daniel drove down from the Atlanta area, while the rest of the team is generally from the Baltimore area.  In their opening game on Saturday, the team bested a young team called Trouble Brewing 4-2 riding goals from Israel, Daniel, and Peter.  However, the team suffered a significant setback in the second game against the eventual tournament champion, The Amoot Habibi's.  Early in the game Isreal took a hit to his ankle, which aggravated an injury from the prior game.  This knocked him out of the tournament.  Moreover, The Amoot Habibi's swarmed back on defense, were nearly perfect on offense, and did not give our team much of a chance to do anything, and ran away with the win 8-1.  It was a depressing defeat in that the Habibi's did not seem to even have to work hard to beat our team that badly.  Little did we know that the Habibi's were by far the best team in the tournament, and the 8-1 score against our team was their least lopsided win during the entire tournament.

Fortunately, the team did not fall apart following this major defeat.  Wes rallied the troops, and although the team went down 2-0 to Wilson United, they were able to come back and win the game 4-3 on a couple of nice and timely goals.  Peter had some nice offense in the game, and Wes and Adam manned the back.  On Sunday, the men traded goals with the Andre Soccer Academy, a talented Florida team still learning how to play the game.  However, with only five healthy players, the team ran out of gas late and tied Andre 4-4.  Our team then battled last year's champion, LVH, a talented team out of Georgia.  Although we went ahead 4-2 on a spectacular goal by Peter, and another nice goal by Ed, a couple of miscues in the back led to a 4-4 tie.  This placed us at a close third place behind the Habibi's and LVH following pool play, and kept the team from a bye in the first round.

Therefore, before leaving on Sunday, the team had to play Andre Soccer Academy for a second time, and by now the Academy had learned how to play the game from a positional standpoint.  The Academy's talent won out against our short-handed squad, and we lost 5-1, knocking us out of the tournament.  It was a shame given our strong showing in pool play, but everyone had fun anyway.  If we had gotten one more timely goal or save, we would have taken second place in pool play and been in a better position to go to the finals.

In retrospect, the Habibi's were far and away the best team in the tournament.  They beat the second place team, LVH, 12-3 in pool play and 10-1 in the finals.  They were certainly impressive as they picked apart some of the best adult teams in the nation.

The coed team (Game of Throw Ins) was also very competitive.  The team consisted of Kristy, Jacky, Chris, Darryl, Mike, and Coach Bill.  Unfortunately, we found out early that Kristy was very sick and could only play a limited amount, and Chris could only play in the first three games.  So we knew we were going to be short handed for at least half of the tournament.

In our opening game, we beat Wine or Water 3-1.  Jacky had a nice goal in the game, and Kristy had another.  Our next assignment on Saturday was Team Sushi, who beat us 5-0 as we began to tire.  The game was a lot closer than the final score however.  In our final game we began to play more strategically, and lost to the eventual tournament champion, Old School Dragons 6-4.  The score would have been 6-5, but a lady on the Dragons made an amazing last second save on a shot by Coach Bill following a beautiful pass from Jacky.

So a third place finish in pool play landed us in a game against second place Team Sushi on Sunday.  Despite not having Chris, the team rallied together around defense, as we began to play well together.  The game ended in a 0-0 tie which we could have won as we had several scoring opportunities.  However, Sushi won in penalty kicks 3-2, and thus won the game 1-0.  The team then had to play Wine or Water in its second game on Sunday.  Wine or Water scored first, but we managed to tie the game in the second half, and the game ended in a 1-1 tie.  This time the penalty kicks went in our favor 2-1, and we thus won the game 2-1.  Our final game on Monday was against Team Sushi, and we were again short handed and tired.  The game was tied 0-0 at halftime, but Sushi broke ahead.  Darryl tied the game to frustrate the fish, but they came back to win the game 3-1.

All in all, the coed team was very competitive, and could have finished higher in the tournament if we were not so short handed.  In particular, our defense was very good for the whole tournament, as we gave up less than 3 goals per game during the tournament.

Thanks again to all who played and who supported us.  We look forward to another great tournament season, and another great tournament next year.  Congratulations to all of the winners and participants in the tournament.  I will post photos from the tournament soon.  Keep checking back for a new photos page!

Disney on My Mind

Well, 3 vs 3 soccer fans, we are at the time of year when the national Disney tournament at Wide World of Sports is on our minds.  Let's hope that we have good weather for the tournament this year.  Last year was uncharacteristically warm and sunny, which provided a pleasing atmosphere for small sided soccer.  This year the Southeast was warm and very dry until about Thanksgiving, when it turned colder and wetter.  We are in the midst of a cold snap right now, but things could change by January.

This is the time to make sure that everyone is on board and fit to play in January.  As usual, the accommodations in Orlando were a bit of a struggle.  Hats off to my friend Wes for handling most of this issue for our teams, and for getting the teams signed up.  We are still not quite sure of the rosters of our teams.  We will have an adult coed team and a men's open team.  I have been lobbying for a position as full time coach the past few years, but thus far I have not been allowed to abandon status as a player.  Therefore, we will probably have at least two (Wes and me) 53 year-old players on our men's open team.  We have one open slot which we are trying to fill with a younger player, so that we will have four young players to compliment the pair of old guys.

Our coed team is being shepherded by our friends Kristy and Darryl, and we hope they will have a full roster too.  Our group of fans will also be there to cheer us on.  I am, as always, indebted to Wes and our fans from Baltimore who make the trek with us to enjoy some good times and competitive soccer play.

In order to compete with the younger teams (herein read fast and strong) in the men's open division, our team will need to be disciplined enough to slow the game down and force the other teams into a half court offense.  That will be a touch assignment this year because only three of us have played together as a team before (Wes, Daniel, and me).  Therefore, we expect there to be some bumps in the road, and we hope that this year will be a learning year for some of the younger players.

We are looking forward to seeing everyone in Orlando.  Good luck to you and your team.  If you are looking for a quick way to improve your luck in the tournament, check out my book on or Barnes &  Search under "3 v 3 soccer".

Let's play soccer!


I just wanted to thank all of you who read my 3 vs. 3 soccer blog.  I hope that you have gained some good tactical information from my blog.  Judging from the hits on my website, there are quite a few of you who have touched base on occasion.  I am thankful for all of my readers.  Maybe we will meet some day.  As most of you know, I post on this blog pretty much whenever I feel like it, and sometimes I go a couple of months or more between posts.  However, I leave up all of my old posts so that folks can look back to find tips and tactics that I have posted in the past.

Even though my torn Achilles tendon has not fully healed (and perhaps never will), I have been back out on the soccer field recently, and I am looking forward to playing more 3 vs. 3 soon if I do not suffer a setback.  My buddy Wes and I are already looking forward to playing at Disney again in January of 2017.  Who will be there with us?  It should be as much fun as ever!

Great Drills for 3v3 Soccer - and News

Hey coaches - Here are a couple of great drills to help your players perform better in 3 vs. 3 soccer events.  Practice them often!  First, get together a circle of four or five players with two in the middle.  The object of the two players in the middle is to steal the ball from the players in the outer circle.  The object of the game for the players in the circle is to pass the ball cleanly between the two players in the middle.  With fewer players play keep away from one player in the middle.  If the game gets lazy, make it one or two touch!

A good defensive drill is to get six players - three on offense and three on defense.  Have the offensive players pass the ball around, and have the defensive three position and re-position themselves accordingly.  The object of the drill is to keep 2 defensive players between the ball and goal at all times - except in very limited circumstances covered in my book.  (Hint hint...)  Anyway, this is a drill that even younger players can practice to hone their sense of how to play defense and how to concentrate around their goal.

I hope that these prove helpful to your teams.  I'll keep trying to blog whenever possible.  I have been laid up with a torn Achilles tendon, but I am recovering so I may be able to return to action soon.  My buddy Wes is taking a coed team to Orlando to play in the Challenge Nationals at Disney at the end of this month.  Go wes, Kristy, and the rest of the Travelers!!

Gulf Coast 3v3 Super Challenge

Hey everyone!  We had a lot of fun at the Challenge event in Tampa, Florida on May 14, 2016.  The event was called the Gulf Coast 3v3 Super Challenge.  We entered a patchwork coed team into the tournament called the Travelers, and we were initially disturbed that the recent trend of fewer and fewer teams participating spread to this tournament.  We were the only coed team in the field with eight men's teams.  There was one men's recreational team, one men's over 30 team, our team, two under 18 teams, and four men's competitive teams. Our coed team had two 50+ year old men (my buddy Wes and me) and seemed ill-equipped to handle the competition.  Wes reassured us that we would have fun anyway, as he was just looking to get in some good training.

Fortunately, the day was not too hot, and there were some trees under which to take shelter from the sun.  Four of our players were from the Tampa area, as our friend Kristy had recruited them from her coed teams.  We quickly made introductions, and then jumped onto the field for our first game at 11:30 against the West Coast Elite U18 team, which was ranked 2nd for the tournament.  I tried to stay out of the mid-day heat, so I played as little as possible in this game.  In addition, Daniel (our only young gun) was late and did not make it to this first game.  Needless to say, the game did not progress well.  West Coast Elite were fast and young, and they scored often.  Although Kristy and Wes forced them into an own-goal in the second half, we had no answer for them, and they beat us 12-1 about midway through the second half.

Our second game was against first ranked Funnabangu, a men's competitive team.  This team appeared to be the best in the tournament, and they have won the Tampa area tournaments before.  We played harder against them, trying to use defense to stop their frequent runs.  Daniel helped out a lot, and I played a bit more in the back.  Kristy's other friend from coed put in a couple of nice left-footed goals, but that was not enough to beat Funnabangu, as they ultimately prevailed 7-2.  As our remaining games were against the men's over 30 and men's recreational teams, it was time to get down to business.

We first played the men's over 30 team, The Old People, and they gave us a big challenge for quite a while.  They were aware of how to play solid defense, so it took us a while to break through against them.  But we were just as tough on defense, and the game was 0-0 for much of the first half.  But then I broke the tie with a goal on a right foot drive as I came out of the corner with the ball, and the scoring came for us after that.  We built up a 5-0 lead, with a couple of nice goals by Daniel.  Finally, The Old People began to pressure us, and as we were tired towards the end of the game we gave up a couple of goals to finish the game with a 5-2 win.  Although The Old People were complaining about being old, we pointed out to them that Wes and I were older than anyone on their team.

We then went to play the men's recreational team, Ocala.  Ocala was skilled and younger.  the used their speed to go up on us early.  However, just before halftime I stole the ball from them and scored when they least expected it.  The game became a seesaw affair, but they beat us 7-4 even though we were coming back towards the end of the game.  We than moved to the playoff round against the two teams we had just played.

The Old People decided that they wanted to finish out the day at the local bar, so they forfeited to us 6-0, slipping us into the final against Ocala.  Both teams were tired, but we felt that Ocala was vulnerable.  The final was another seesaw affair.  Daniel had a nice goal or two, but we found ourselves down 5-4 with a minute to go in the game. Despite fatigue, we had a lot of fight left.  I fed the ball to Wes, who put a nice move on the defender and scored to tie the game 5-5 at the end of regulation.  We felt good at that point, but Ocala was determined.  In sudden death the teams dueled it out, but Ocala brought their tallest player in on a corner kick and placed a perfect kick onto his head for a score of 6-5 to end the game victorious.  In the other men's final, Funnabangu beat West Coast Elite 6 to 3.

We took home second place medals, and went out to socialize that night.  It was another fun weekend in the Tampa/Clearwater area, and another fun tournament for our teams.

Ball Movement

In considering 3v3 offensive moves, it seems to me that there is only one way to put the ball into the other team's goal when the other team is skilled enough to lock down on defense around the small goals employed in most tournaments.  That method is ball movement.  There has to be plenty of player movement, but ball movement is especially key.  When ball movement exists, offensive opportunities will simply present themselves when defenses make mistakes. The ball movement must be very precise because of the limited space in which the plays are made, and players must be able to move the ball repeatedly with first time passes made without trapping the ball at all.  Players must be able to know what they will be doing with the ball before they receive it.

Now, to youth coaches this may seem a bit extreme.  Yes - the type of quick ball movement I am espousing is not required at many youth levels.  But as the kids become older, the competition becomes more fierce, and the players smarter and more skilled on defense, ball movement becomes the primary weapon, with patience being the secondary weapon.  Coaches should promote precise ball movement even in youth soccer, taking into account the age of their players.  Quick and precise ball movement can be both beautiful to watch, and deadly to defenses that are not able to react quickly enough.  I would consider it to be the most important concept for 3v3 soccer offense.

Disney Nationals 2016 - Disappointment

Well the 2016 Disney National 3v3 Finals have come and gone, and as I reflect on the tournament over the MLK Holiday weekend, I have a feeling of disappointment despite the fact that my friends and I had a wonderful time together in Orlando.  Some of the disappointment was over the tournament results for our team (which I will detail later).  However, the tournament itself was a bit of a letdown in several ways.

Let me explain.  First, when we got the schedules we realized that there were only eight adult male teams signed up for the whole tournament, and all of them were lumped into one division.  I can remember when the tournament had 25 open competitive teams, 25 open recreational teams, and 15 over 30 teams in the adult male category.  That number has dwindled down to a mere 8 teams, which gave the tournament less of the feel of a major event.  Moreover, we did not see any coed or women's teams at the tournament (although they may have played elsewhere in the complex).  But the bottom line is that the tournament's adult divisions have shrunken, and that it appeared that only the youth divisions were valued.  We may have to consider playing elsewhere in the future if this trend continues.

The lack of teams left us grouped with a lot of very young fast competitive gold/invitational players.  We were clearly the oldest team in the tournament.  At 53 years old, I was probably easily the oldest player there.  Our team also had a 41 year old, three 35 year olds, and a 27 year old.  The age factor put us at a disadvantage from the start.

Also, there did not seem to be a central information area at the tournament.  We had questions on rankings, field locations, and scoring, but we could not find a central tent.  Everyone we asked said to check things on line.  However, following pool play we needed to know our ranking for the playoffs to determine whether we had to play in the quarterfinals or go home, and if we played, what field to go to.  Because there was not enough time to load things on line, and no posted scores that we could look at, we had to wait at the fields and see what happened.  This left everyone in a quandary until we found out where we played.

Finally, we had a situation in the quarterfinal game in which one of the other team's players was given a red card on a breakaway foul with 2 minutes to go in a game we were losing by one goal.  The referee did not give us a penalty kick, but we argued that the other team had to play with only 2 players for the rest of the game.  The referee said no, and checked with the tournament official, who agreed.  Now it was disappointing enough that Wes and I have played in this tournament for many years with the rule being that an ejection meant playing shorthanded, and that the rule was apparently changed recently.  But what really makes no sense is that this rule change encourages bad behavior by players!  Each team with a full roster now has three "free" red cards to use before any real sanction of their behavior takes place.  Everywhere I have played soccer, a red card means that the carded team plays shorthanded.  Why should this be any different in a 3v3 situation?  The fact that the tournament leaves open this loophole which clearly encourages unsportsmanlike play is amazing to me, and is another reason to consider abandoning this tournament in the future.

Now all of this may sound like sour grapes, and perhaps it is to a certain extent.  But we did have a great time in Orlando, and did far better in the tournament than we expected to do.  Plus, the weather was fantastic for playing soccer.  Our first game early Saturday afternoon was a 6-1 win.  I'm not exactly sure who we played, as the schedule changed several times.  My buddy Wes and our friend Sylvia kept the scorecard, and I have not gotten the tournament report back from them yet.  Perhaps I will give a more detailed report later.  Our second game was at 4:15 on Saturday, and we played a young aggressive team that pushed us to our limits.  We missed numerous open shots early, and went down 3-0.  But we came back in the second half and went ahead 4-3.  We did not hold the lead however, and our opposition scored a late goal to tie us 4-4.

In our third game on Saturday, we faced another young hard-playing group of Latin players.  Although their team included one lady, she played only one short shift in the first half and one short shift in the second half.  One of their players had a very hard shot, and he branded me a couple of times early in the game when we did not block or deflect his shots.  However, our defense held despite the onslaught and we won the game 2-1.  On Sunday we had two more pool games, which determined ranking for the playoffs.  In the first pool game we faced a very good team from Georgia - I believe that they were called FC Start.  They were fast and strong.  Perhaps miscalculating, I decided not to play to rest up for the next two games and the playoffs because my heel was hurting me from playing Friday night in an 11-aside tournament in Auburndale, Florida, and all of the games on Saturday.  Without the old man to slow things down, our team went into a more "run and gun" game against the youngsters, which was probably not the best strategy.  Although we scored 5 goals against them, we gave up 8 goals and lost.  But I was fresher for our next pool game against the FC Somerset team from Maryland.  We played hard against Somerset as the sun was going down, and we beat them 6-3.  We had hoped to avoid the quarterfinals by placing in the top two teams, but our lone defeat left us in a solid third place after pool play.  As a result, we had to go play in the quarterfinals to make it to the semis.

As luck would have it, the team we tied came in sixth place and faced our team in the quarterfinals late on Sunday evening.  We played hard, but the young boys played very physical against us - knocking us down again and again.  Finally, we were down 3-2 late with about 2 minutes to play when they hauled down Daniel from behind who had gotten a breakaway.  Although they were assessed a red card, they played with the full three players for the rest of the game because of the rule change, and we were unable to crack their defenses and lost 3-2 despite pushing them to the limit.

I'll have to wait for the stats from Wes before posting more information.  Also, I will try to get the pictures up on the website soon.  Although disappointed with the results and the operation of the tournament, we did have a lot of fun with our friends down in Orlando.  Also, Disney did bring in a professional game while we were there that was fun to watch.  Some stars did play in the 11-aside game, so that was a positive part of the tournament.

Many thanks to my teammates - Daniel, Israel, Edison, Nelson, and Andrew for a great tournament.  What a great team!  Wes was awesome to coach us, and we were lucky to have some great fans from Baltimore come down and cheer for us.  Thanks Diane, Lisa, and Sylvia!

Wes and I will have to assess where to take our team going forward.  I truly hope that the tournament can begin to attract more teams in the future, because Orlando is a great venue for soccer in January.

Thanks for the Kind Words - Also My New Book!

I just wanted to express a note of thanks to those who have reviewed my book on 3 vs. 3 soccer on Amazon and given it a nice review.  It is so satisfying to know that my book has helped other teams be successful in the game, as that was my main goal in sharing my knowledge about 3 vs. 3 soccer.  As I get older and less able to compete at a high level, sharing knowledge is my main contribution to small sided soccer.  If anyone else has enjoyed my book, please give me a review on Amazon.  As one reviewer suggested, I may some day write another soccer book.

Also, if anyone in the Southeastern US (particularly near Atlanta) enjoys hiking, trail running, mountain biking, or general nature and outdoors, you may enjoy my second book that just came out.  It is a trail guide to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Areas near Atlanta, Georgia.  Check it out at

Tactic to Use on Offense

Every now and then I like to mention a tactic or trick that my teams sometimes use on offense in order to give my readers a little edge.  One such tactic is the "V" split that my teams have used with some success.  In order to execute this maneuver, assume that your team has the ball and that the other team is playing a "V" defense in front of its goal.  In the "V" split, one of the two offensive players who does not have the ball runs behind the two front line defensive players to receive a pass that splits the two and gives and immediate one on one attack.  The trick to making it work is for the offensive player receiving the ball to immediately pull the ball to one side or the other, so that the final defensive player is not on his heels defending.  This provides a more open shot at the goal.  Practice this play and see how it works for you.

Nationals at Disney are Approaching

Around the beginning of December every year I begin to realize that 3v3 Nationals at Disney in Orlando is just around the corner.  This recollections signals the end of my Halloween/Thanksgiving eating frenzy, and the need to begin training for Nationals.  Plus, it gives me something to look forward to, as soccer in my area pretty much quits during the time between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.  The Orlando tournament is filled with fond memories for me, and the warmer climate found in Florida is a refreshing break from the cold winter found in most of the rest of the country.

There are so many good reasons to field a team for the Disney tournament.  Everyone can benefit from the fun and fellowship associated with traveling to the good Florida weather with friends to compete.  For youth coaches, the tournament provides an opportunity to teach your team skills that will be important for their entire soccer career, and a chance to see how your kids do against the best teams around.  Plus, taking the kids to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot will score you major brownie points with parents.  For kids who come to compete, you and your friends can have fun together and with your families, and learn new plays and skills while having the possibility to take home hardware.

Another benefit that is often overlooked is the wonderful condition of Disney's playing fields.  It is worth going to Orlando just to be able to play on the soft uniform grass that Disney maintains so well.

For adult players such as myself, the good friends you make over the years are reason enough to go back.  But the competition, good food, and entertainment possibilities round out a great vacation package.  Although at this point I am a 3v3 dinosaur, I still enjoy the experience, and I think others should give it a try too.

In short, I hope everyone makes an effort to field a team at Nationals this year.  The more teams that play, the more fun everyone experiences.  Let's kick off soon!

Whither the Ladies?

Over the years I have witnessed fewer and fewer teams at many of the tournaments, with the drop off being especially pronounced in the adult divisions.  There was a time when the adult divisions at local tournaments held fifteen to twenty teams each.  Often it now seems that local tournaments have difficulty finding five adult teams to compete against each other.  The ladies divisions have suffered in particular.  Although we would like to bring a ladies team to some of our tournaments, it often seems as if there are few teams for them to play, and those few that are there are loaded with young and very skilled players.

Perhaps one or more of the tours could do some promotion in the area of the adult divisions, with an emphasis on ladies teams.  We first heard about 3 v 3 soccer from radio commercials playing in our home town.  Perhaps similar ads might be possible.  Maybe advertising through local soccer clubs, or in areas frequented by young athletes would be helpful.  How about a partnership with a national fitness gym?  It just seems a shame that our ladies may have to stay home this year, rather than compete at nationals.  We will be missing our fan club this year!

Why Defense First?

As many of you know, I have often stressed the importance of defense in winning small-sided soccer games.  Defense is the boring side of the game that most players don't dwell on.  Why not emphasize offensive creativity and the skills necessary to run a successful offensive play?

The answer lies in the essence of the small-sided soccer game.  Because the goals are so small, and the field area so limited, a quick and determined defense can do more to defend the goal than it can when the goals are larger and the playing field more extensive.  More importantly, a determined defense will lead to offensive opportunities in small-sided soccer.  Goals are most often scored on fast breaks and transition plays when the opposing team's players are out of position or concentrating on offense and cannot get back to defend their goal.  Without a goalie, a 2 on 1 break in 3 vs. 3 soccer should be deadly.  My defense first philosophy also takes into account the need for proper player positioning in successful guarding of the goal.  In short, defense is more important, more teachable, and more instrumental in creating offense in 3 vs. 3 soccer than in other games.

There are ways to improve a team's offensive play, but they are more organic and less teachable than defensive improvement.  Give defense a try.  Your team will be surprised by the results of a determined wall in front of its goal, as the other team unravels in frustration.

Placement of Ball on Goal Kicks

One legitimate question that comes up during 3 vs. 3 games is where to place the ball in goal kick situations.  I often see teams placing the ball along the goal line too near the goal or too far into the corner.  Youth teams are especially guilty of this, as the kids just place the ball in a convenient location without thinking.  Coaches should teach placement of the ball near the midway point between the corner and the goal post.  If the ball is placed too close to the goal, it can result in a quick goal by pressuring players.  If it is placed too close to the corner, the pressuring players can trap a team in the corner and force a turnover.  Always take care to give enough space on either side along the line to creatively begin your transition from goal kick to offensive advancement.


I am interested to know whether anyone else in 3v3 soccer world has views on ethics in playing soccer.  An ugly incident between a fan and a referee at the DC United Soccer Fest reminded my of the duty that we all share to promote civil and even-handed competition in soccer.  I don't want to get all preachy, but my ethic can be summed up as follows: "Play hard, make friends, keep my mouth shut, leave the referee alone, don't try to hurt anyone, win fair and square, and congratulate the other team afterwards."  It's an ethic of focus.  We should all be focused on playing hard and having fun, not on winning at all costs or getting revenge against the other team and referees.  As to the referee question, whenever a team blames a referee for a loss, it always causes me to pause.  I always think to myself "Why did you put yourself and your team in the position to allow the referee to decide the game against your team?"  Referees are human, and they make mistakes.  Usually, they know when they make mistakes.  If not, it almost never helps to berate them.  It only makes them mad at your team.  And a team should never lose focus by fighting with the opposition.  Fighting is a sure way to lose the game through red and yellow cards, or generally through a lack of concentration on the play.


DC United Soccerfest Report

This past weekend my buddy Israel and I traveled up to Baltimore, MD to play in the DC United Soccerfest.  This is a 4 vs. 4 tournament put on annually near Leesburg, VA.  The tournament setting was quite beautiful; in the rolling hills and fields of Northern Virginia. When we arrived after our 1 1/2 hour drive from Baltimore, I felt like just sitting and enjoying the scenery, rather than play soccer.  Of course, the long lines at the toll plazas between Baltimore and Northern Virginia took some of the wind out of this old man's sails on the way there.  However, when the soccer games finally started, everyone was ready to play.

Our team consisted of me, Israel, my buddy Wes, and his recruits Kenny, Francis, and Bojo. Francis and Bojo were both new to the game, so we immediately went to an open field and plotted our defensive and offensive strategy.  This is always a wise thing to do before a tournament, in order to make sure everyone is on the same page as to a strategy.  In small sided soccer, keeping everyone together on strategy is quite critical to success, particularly early in the tournament.  In addition, because this tournament was 4 vs. 4, rather than 3 vs. 3, we had to modify the tactics found in my book in order to fit the extra player on both teams.

When the other team arrived, we immediately thought we were in trouble.  "Son of a Pitch" consisted of some 20 year old guys who looked very skilled in the warm-ups. However, we took an early lead on a goal by Coach Bill with a nice assist from Wes, and never looked back.  Our defensive strategy completely confounded them, and we were in complete control for most of the game.  Kenny played excellent defense on the back line, and we ended up with a 3-1 win.

The next game was against a brash young team, perhaps even younger than the first team we played.  They also laughed at us before the game, thinking that we were not qualified to play against them.  It's NEVER a good idea to laugh at your opposition before the game.  "Elite DN" was also confounded by our defensive strategy, and their fans began yelling things like "That's not soccer!" in response to our excellent defensive goal coverage.  We slowly moved ahead of them, and refused to let them have any shots. When one of their young players began elbowing me and shoving me back into my own goal with his backside, I stepped out of the way and gave him a gentle nudge. He found himself on his backside in our goal.  Their fans went ballistic.  Kenny continued his masterful goal blocking, and Bojo and Israel provided the firepower as we cruised to a 3-1 win.  After the game, one of their fans, probably someone's mother, began screaming poor language at the referee, which earned her an early trip to the parking lot.

Our final opening round opponent was "Athletico NOVA," which had already lost its two initial games. Although AN went ahead 1-0, and proved to be more stubborn than we thought they would be, we came roaring back and earned a 7-2 win, with Francis, Bojo, and Israel leading the scoring parade.  Because we won all of our games, we were the first place seed, and went immediately to the finals.

At this point it bears mentioning that we did not have a tent, and the temperatures had soared to over 90 degrees.  Our first game was at 2:00 in the afternoon, and we played each of our games back to back without more than 15 minutes to rest.  By the end of the third game, we were gassed.  In particular, I was suffering terribly from the heat, and was desperately seeking shade.  Tournament note: always bring a tent when playing in the summer heat during the day!  Make sure you have sufficient food and water - especially when your games are back to back.

As luck would have it, we played "Elite DN" in the finals, and this time they did not laugh at us before the game.  We went ahead 2-0 on a couple of brilliant goals by Israel and Francis, and the score was 2-1 at halftime, but I knew I was near heat exhaustion. In the second half, they began pressuring us, and we finally ran out of gas after 7 winning halves of soccer.  Kenny, Wes, and Francis were hobbled with injuries, and I was fighting heatstroke.  Although we fought hard, they overcame our 2-1 lead, and ended up with a 5-3 victory.  Even though we took home second place medals, we felt like we were the true winners of the tournament, as we had beaten all of the teams in the initial round, but merely run out of gas in the sun at the end of the tournament.

Many thanks to Wes for putting the team together, for driving us down to the tournament, and for putting Israel and I up at his house!  Also - many thanks to my teammates, Bojo, Francis, Kenny, Wes, and Israel - you guys were great.  Finally, a huge shout out to our most loyal fan and team manager Diane.  We are hoping to put a team into an Atlanta tournament before the end of the year.

Effective 3 v 3 Drill

One of the drills that helps soccer players with fundamental skills necessary to play 3 vs. 3 soccer is the one in which players stand in a circle, with one or two players in the middle of the circle.  The circle passes the ball around, and the player or players in the middle try to steal the ball from the players on the outside circle.  The circle player at fault for a steal has to trade places with the center player who steals the ball.  In some versions, there are two players in the middle and five or six on the outside.  The players on the outside attempt to pass the ball between the two players in the middle without allowing a steal.  In my view, this game develops the skills necessary to play 3 vs. 3, particularly when played in a "one touch" or "two touch" style.  Quick ground passing and trapping, thinking about passes before one receives the ball, and tough defense are all developed by this drill when done regularly.

Whither Tampa/Clearwater?

For many years my teams have traveled down to Clearwater in May to play in the Tampa 3 v 3 tournament held in Clearwater, or more recently in the nearby town of Lutz.  This year, my buddy Wes and I were again ready to bring a team to stay at the beach for the yearly tournament.  There was just one problem.  This year we could find no tournament.  Kickit has done them in the past, but more recently has passed along the venue to Challenge.  Although we regularly checked both websites, we could find no notice of a tournament in the Tampa Bay area this year.  The closest we could find was Orlando.  If anyone reading this blog has any information on the Tampa tournament situation, please feel free to blog with that information.

Wes and I decided instead to meet there for a long weekend vacation.  It was a long drive for me, but it was worth it as the Tampa Bay weather was wonderful as usual.  The beach, sun, water, and good food made up for the lack of 3 vs. 3 soccer.

My buddy Israel and I will be flying up to Baltimore to play with Wes in the 4 v 4 DC Soccerfest on June 20.  That should be a lot of fun, and a good way to kick off the 3 vs. 3 soccer season, given that the Tampa tournament appears to be no more.

Practical and Helpful Tournament Tips

Here are some practical tips for traveling to tournaments to play 3 vs. 3 soccer from my years of experience playing out of state tourneys.  They are posted with the hope that more teams will travel to far away 3 vs. 3 tournaments to compete.

(1)  Always bring rain gear.  A Gore Tex jacket and pants pack up really small and can be invaluable in a sudden rain storm.

(2)  It's always advisable to bring a wide brim sun hat and sunscreen.

(3)  Bring a lightweight collapsible folding chair.  Perhaps with arm rests with cup holders for a favorite beverage.

(4)  Each team should bring a fold out collapsible tent or awning for team pow-wows out of the summer sun.  These can be found a major sporting goods stores, and can be rugged and large enough for a 3 vs. 3 team.

(5)  Bring food and water or sports drinks.  All day play in the sun makes players dehydrated and hungry.

(6)  Pack as much as possible into the fields in a large backpack with adequate hip belt and shoulder straps.  This makes the long walk out to your team's field more pleasant.

(7)  Check in early and scout the fields to get a feel for the play area.  Get to the fields early and do teamwork and passing warm up drills.

(8)  Read the tournament rules and discuss them with the referee if necessary.  Often the referees are not yet familiar with special 3 vs. 3 soccer rules, and it is always helpful to have a pre-game refresher.

(9)  Bring whatever is necessary, including towels and "cold cloths" to cool your body during hot tournament days.  Eat and drink lightly all day whether or not you feel hungry or thirsty.

A Lesson From Nationals

Whenever I go to a 3 vs. 3 event, I try to take away some lessons to share with others. One lesson I was reminded of at the Nationals Event at Disney this year was the power of speeding a game up or slowing it down.  In a couple of our games, we found ourselves to be the more skilled and faster team.  In those games, speeding up the game by pressuring the other team proved to be the best tactic.

However, in the finals we faced a Corona team that was faster, younger, stronger, and more skilled than our team.  We were also missing our best player, who had left to fly home early.  Tactically, we wisely slowed the game down, passed the ball, and played very solid defense.  As a result, we found ourselves in a 2-1 game well into the second half of play. Corona ultimately broke through and beat us 5-2, but by slowing the game down we kept the score close and gave ourselves a chance to win a game that we should not have won. Tactics such as these should be remembered by coaches looking to win games under difficult circumstances.  I know that as I get older slowing the game down becomes more important to me as a player and I hope I will not forget to use this strategy when needed.

Disney 3 vs. 3 Nationals Tournament Report

Well it's true that some things just get better with age.  And some people do too.

This year I joined up with my good buddy Wes from Baltimore to play the Disney 3v3 National finals in Orlando.  Wes has been bringing his guys and gals down from Maryland to play in the Nationals since the year 2000.  His team has always been called Travelers.  This year our Travelers squad struck gold, and I am most proud for Wes.

Back in May, our Travelers squad took a close second in the Tampa local tournament, fielding 3 players who were age 50 or older: Coach Bill, Wes, and their buddy Faruk.  Also joining were Mert (in his 20's), Ricky (34), and Israel (33).  Despite our advanced age, and the fact that we were playing against all 20 year-old squads, we beat all of the Tampa teams, except for one that beat us by a goal in double overtime in the finals, after the referee blew two calls that gave them the overtime.  Little did we know back then that this year we would achieve the success we have been working for at the Nationals tournament over the MLK Holiday weekend.

The weather for the tournament was wonderful, and we basked in the sunshine and 78 degree temperatures during the day.  Our revamped Travelers squad included Wes, Andrew, and Nelson from Baltimore, and Israel and Coach Bill from Atlanta.  Also joining was Israel's friend Daniel from Chattanooga.  We felt confident that we could take on anyone with the squad we had.  On Friday night after dinner we all convened at the hotel hot tub to discuss strategy, and greet our group as they arrived.

We were also lucky enough to be joined by our greatest fans, who formed their own ladies' team.  They included Lisa, Diane, Kim, and Cari from Baltimore, and Misha from Charlotte, North Carolina.  Misha's mother also came along and cheered for both our teams.  Many thanks to our friends for being the best fans in the world!

Our first game was on Saturday afternoon.  We faced Euroblast from Chicago in our first match.  Wes remembered that he had his best game ever against this same team in the 2001 knock out round, scoring 3 goals.  This year Euroblast had a couple of new players, but they were completely out of their depth for this tournament.  We ended up with a convincing 7-1 victory, despite the fact that we were going easy in order to rest our legs for game two.

In game two we faced very stiff competition.  The Corona team turned out to be our main rivals.  They were very young Peruvians, including an ex or up and coming young MLS player.  They were well coached, extremely fast, and had great ball skills.  They caught us off guard the in the first 5-6 minutes.  They played smart and unselfishly, being willing to pass the ball even when they were in scoring position.  They went up on us 3-0.  But we made some changes in the second half.  South American teams are notorious for being lax on defense, and we put in our squad of young strikers (Nelson, Andrew, Israel, and Daniel), and attacked them right as the whistle blew.  Soon the score was 3-3.  In the end, the Corona team out-gunned us and held on for a 6-5 victory.  Israel turned his ankle and became questionable for the rest of the tournament.  But both teams wanted a rematch for the finals.

In game 3 we played Diego Magic Spin, which turned out to be a group of Chinese construction workers employed in Nigeria taking vacation in Florida.  They were very much out of their league in the tournament.  They had only four players, and one appeared to be just along for the ride.  We rested our big guns, and Coach Bill and Wes played the majority of the minutes.  Wes got two goals and numerous assists, and Coach Bill also put in a goal.  Diego got one incredible goal when one player managed to shoot the ball while tripping over himself.

By Sunday we stood near the top in third place.  Besides Corona, there was another undefeated team (AC Milan), and we could not scout that team because all of the games were simultaneous.  Victories in both Sunday pool games were crucial because the two top seeds got byes in the first playoff round, seeds 3-6 had to play their way into the semifinals, and seeds 7-10 went home.

In game four we faced the Blue Ballers from Indiana.  It was a seesaw match.  Our transition to defense was slow, which hurt us.  The Blue Ballers were a fast counter-attacking team with hard shots.  They went ahead 2-0, but we countered and went ahead 3-2.  With two minutes left in the game we led by two 6-4.  However, we were playing our strikers, and rather than hold the ball to run the clock they tried to score a seventh goal.  Every shot we missed gave our opponent a chance to tie, which they did with 20 second remaining.  The final score was 6-6.  This was very demoralizing in that the tie felt like a loss, dropped us to fourth seed, assured that we would not finish as second seed, and paired us with Corona in the semi-final.

But in game five we played well against AC Milan and won 7-3.  AC was a collection of British coaches, many of whom were former youth players from premier teams like Arsenal.  They were the most physical team we faced, but they had only four players, and fatigue would play against them.  We had developed more sophisticated teamwork, with Wes pushing forward on offense and swapping with Nelson on defense in mid play. The speedy Nelson ran past their defender who was marking Wes, and we got 2 goals right away.  Although the Brits keyed on Nelson thereafter, we began subbing two lines with the Baltimore players and the Atlanta group.  Here, Israel and Daniel stepped up their games and put in three goals.  AC was undefeated until this game and solidly in second place, but this win did move us up to third seed for the playoffs.

In the first knock-out playoff game we played Zlatan out of Jacksonville, Florida.  We came out of the game with a convincing 10-2 victory.  Zlatan was an average experienced 3v3 squad.  Their captain was dangerous defensively.  He was observant and adept at cutting off passing lanes to critical players.  They managed to capitalize on some mistakes, but our team made necessary adjustments.  Wes made things difficult for them by choosing a side of the field with the setting sun in their eyes, so their defenders had to squint.  By the second half the sun had set and was not in our eyes. We looked forward to Monday's games.

Monday's semi-final was critical for Wes, as the best he had ever finished at Nationals was 4th place.  A win in this game guaranteed a higher final ranking.  We were slated to face AC Milan again, but after our victory the previous day they were less than enthusiastic. A combination of fatigue from having only one extra player, discouragement at having been soundly beaten by us, and coaching duties elsewhere had them saying they would forfeit the semi-final, and they did.  None of us complained.  We saved our energy and we got a chance to watch Corona drub the Blue Ballers in their semi-final.

In the finals, we faced a swift skilled Corona without Nelson, who had already flown back to Baltimore.  The final was a lot closer than the 5-2 final score would indicate.  Corona went up 2-0, but we got an inspired goal by Andrew right before halftime.  We slowed the game down, fell into a defensive shell, and counterattacked.  Halfway through the second half it was still 2-1, but we had to become more aggressive in the late stages of the game.  We missed the creative genius of Nelson going forward, but we knew we had to play with the men that we had.  Corona found space to knock in a couple of goals with their swift running and deadly shots.  Andrew pounced on a steal at midfield and closed the gap to 4-2, but Corona had the last word.

The best team clearly won the tournament, so there were no long faces.  After all, we had two 50 year-olds going up against their 20 year-old players.  Wes especially enjoyed faking out Corona's best player, who let out a cry of rage when he did so.  Israel also played well, stealing the ball in the corner from Corona's best player.  However, the Corona players were very classy, and shared their victory with us in fine soccer tradition. We very much appreciated their sportsmanship.

Our ladies did not win a game, but they had some great fun both on and off the field. We also appreciate all that they did to make our weekend special.  We are looking forward to another fine tournament season in 2015.  Go old guys!
Thanks again to my teammates, our fans, and particularly to Wes for all his work on putting the team together.  You guys and gals are the best!

Look for pictures from the tournament and more pictures from Tampa 2014 to be posted soon!  I'm hoping to have them posted this weekend.  Rock on 3v3!

Disney 3v3 Nationals - Travelers Take Second Place!

News Flash - Over MLK weekend Coach Bill's team the Travelers took second place overall in the Men's Open Division at the Disney National Finals!!  The Travelers team is run by Captain Wes out of Baltimore, Maryland.  A full recap of the games will follow soon.  Also, check back for pictures of the team and fans during this weekend's fun and festivities at Disney!

Corner Kick Tip!

On corner kicks in 3 v 3 soccer, do not take the kick as you would in normal 11-aside soccer.  Always play possession.  Putting the ball into the center on a corner kick will usually result in a fast break by the opposing team because one or more of your team's players will be stuck in the corner and out of the play.


Come join us for the Tampa Challenge Tournament on May 17, 2014!  My buddy Wes has signed our team up as the Travelers in the men's division.  Come by and say hello if you can.  This is a great tournament every year.  I hope you can sign up a team and come compete with us - or bring a kids team for more competitive fun!

The Role of Speed in 3 v. 3 Soccer

A topic that I find interesting is the use of speed in 3 v. 3 soccer.  Generally, in soccer the speed of a fast player can be a key to winning a game.  Quick forwards can blow past defenders for easy goals.  Quick defenders can stop quick forwards and thus protect their goal better.  Moreover, in 11-aside soccer there is a lot of room to roam on the field, therefore a fast player can free up space for creative dribbling moves, shots, or crosses.

In 3 v. 3 soccer, speed is not so much of a weapon.  The small size of the field and goal tend to neutralize a player's speed.  If a fast player moves quickly in any direction with the ball, he or she will tend to hit a sideline fairly quickly.  of course, being fast is certainly better than being slow in 3 v. 3 soccer.  Often a fast player can reach the ball before a defender and poke it into the goal or slide a pass over to a teammate before the defense can fully react.  Nevertheless, I think it goes without saying that speed is less of a weapon in 3 v. 3 soccer than it is in full sided soccer.  This is particularly true when an opposing team plays a slow defensive minded game that keeps the goal hidden behind defenders.

In my view, quickness is of more value than speed in 3 v. 3 soccer, particularly when coupled with good ball control skills.  Quickness in a player's first step or two can allow for better defense of the goal and shot blocking, as well as quick shots and passes on offense.  Anyone have some thoughts on whether speed is essential in 3 v. 3 soccer/

Tournament Seasion is Here!

Now that it is the middle of April, it is time to start signing up for 3 vs. 3 soccer tournaments and looking forward to local, regional, and national competition.  In many of the warmer states, numerous local tournaments are already being held.  Challenge, Kickit, and 3v3 Live all have excellent competition for all ages.  This year, we will be going to our favorite Challenge tournament in Tampa on May 17, and once again enjoying the sun and fun of the beach while there.  I may also try to play in a northeastern tournament this year with my buddy Wes.  Of course, we will also look to compete at nationals in August and again in January.  Gear up!  Tournament season is upon us!

More Thoughts on National Finals

     In retrospect, for me this year's national finals tournament emphasized the importance of the tactics outlined in my book.  Using those tactics, my team went head to head with the best teams in the nation, including the second and third place men's gold teams, and the first place men's silver team.  Although our record against these teams was not good, virtually every game was a one goal game, and the one game that ended up 6-3 was close even into the second half.  Although this may not seem like much to many, you have to consider that all of the teams we played consisted of players in their 20's, who were very skilled, fast, and strong.

     In contrast, my team had two 50 year old players, a 44 year old player, and a 34 year old player, and had never played together before.  In addition, we only  had five players for our games on Sunday and Monday, and were often going against teams with full rosters.  Our team should have been beaten severely by these teams, but we pushed all of them to the last minute.  Our good positioning, defense, and passing kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win despite the fact that we were overmatched.  The tactics in my book work, and this year's tournament results for my team demonstrated their effectiveness.

     Keep checking back to see photos from the tournament.  I plan to post them soon.

National Finals Results! Disney 2014

     This year's national finals at Disney was blessed by great weather. On Saturday it was a bit chilly, but otherwise the whole weekend was incredible weather-wise.  The Disney folks did their best to make the tournament a spectacular event for all of the teams participating. Most of our team arrived on Friday, and our team captain Wes checked us in at the tournament headquarters. I arrived on Friday evening, and those of us who had arrived went out for some food, got ready to play the next day, and spent some time relaxing with a glass of wine.  We knew that there would be some tough soccer to play the next day.  Fortunately, everyone arrived on time and ready to play.

     Our men's team was called The Travelers, which is the latest embodiment of a team that has been coming to the national championship tournament for many years, headed by Wes from Maryland.  We entered our team in the men's open division, rather than over 30, because we had two younger players on our team.  The format of the tournament was a bit different this year.  All of the men's open teams were grouped into one big division.  After the first day, the teams were split into gold and silver divisions based upon their records, and then played for the gold and silver championship.  This format replaced the men's competitive and recreational divisions which had been used in the past.  I believe that the intention was to make sure that each team was correctly slotted in its proper division based upon ability.  By doing so, it prevented teams from entering gold level men's teams in the silver men's division.

     Of course, for our team it made things much more difficult because we had to play many of the best teams in the nation right from the start of the tournament.  All of the teams we faced consisted of players between 18 and 25 years of age.  They were quick, skilled, and strong.  Our team consisted of 2 men 50 years of age, a 44 year old player, a 34 year old player, a 20 year old player, and a 23 year old player.  Needless to say, the cards were stacked against our team.  However, we made very good use of the system, tactics, and skills that are outlined in my 3 vs. 3 Soccer book, and thus we held tough in virtually every game we played.  It was truly a testament to our system that no team was able to take advantage of our age or our diminished skills.  We pushed even the best young teams to the very end of each game.

     On Saterday we played Balderas from Indiana in our first game.  The game was a seesaw affair, but Balderas held on to beat us 3-2 as we attacked their goal relentlessly in the second half of play.  Balderas went on to win the silver division championship.  In our second game at 3:30 pm we played a tough team from Illinois, Son's of Beaches/Italia6.  We were told that this team was the reigning national champion in the men's competitive division.  Again, we held tough against them with a close score well into the second half.  However, they were able to put us away with some goals late in the game for a 6-3 final score.  SOB/Italia6 went on to place second in the men's gold division.  In our 5:00 pm game, we played another tough young team called Team Ferrell from Florida.  Although this team had four young strong players, it also had a couple of players in their 30's, which we hoped would even the playing field.  Unfortunately, we lost 4-2 on a couple of "phantom" goals called by the referee.  Team Ferrell also went on to do well in the gold level playoffs.

     On Sunday we came to the fields for our 1:30 game feeling refreshed.  Our first game was against a very young team, the Soccer Thugs from Florida.  In yet another close match we lost 2-1 due to an early goal by their team.  At 3:00 we played Trouble Brewing from Indiana, and once again lost 4-3 in an evenly played match.  We were beginning to feel snakebitten.  However, in our 4:30 game we won a solid 3-2 match against Tulsa Soccer Bayern Munich from Oklahoma, on a couple of great plays from my buddy Israel.  We felt uplifted by our victory, and looked forward to the playoffs the next day in the silver division.

     On Monday morning at 8:45 we played Balderas again as our first game in the silver division playoffs.  As the games were now single elimination, we knew the game was important for any future play.  Although we took the lead on Balderas, their team came back to lead by a goal late in the game.  Fortunately, Alex hit a nice shot to tie the game 6-6 and force playoff penalty kicks from midfield.  These kicks are much more difficult than they seem.  Both teams took four shots.  Our team missed two of our shots, whereas Balderas only missed one.  Therefore, Balderas went on to advance in the tournament, and won the silver division.  Bill and Juan scored on their penalty kicks, but we just were not able to pull out the win.  We went home confident that we were able to play with any team in the tournament, including the top men's gold division teams.

     Meanwhile, our ladies team, the Comets, were battling with some very young and strong competition.  They faced one U-17 team and two teams with girls who seemed to be at about college level of play.  Although they did not win, they played hard and well.  Rosie, Shelly, and English Lisa scored some nice goals in the tournament.

      The complete results from the tournament are available on Disney's website.  I plan to publish pictures from our games on the website soon.  Keep checking the site for photos and more news.

     Many thanks to my teammates Wes, Israel, Juan, Ricky, and Alex for a fine tournament.  Many thanks also to the ladies team and our friends for being great fans and for having so much fun with us down at Disney.  I'm really looking forward to next year.  Let's have another great year of 3 vs 3 soccer!  Please sign up a team for your local tournament, and consider coming to play at nationals or regionals.  These tournaments are loads of fun, and you cannot experience it if you stay home!


National Finals at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports

     I must express my apologies to my readers for failing to update this blog for the past few months.  I have suffered some personal turmoil in my life which has kept me from being able to access the internet for purposes of the blog the past few months.  I am hoping to remedy the problem soon.

     However, I did enjoy the opportunity to play 3 vs. 3 soccer this month at the National Finals at Disney in Orlando.  Many thanks to my buddy Wes and the Travelers team for giving me a chance to play for another national title.  We fielded our team in the Men's Open division and did much better than we expected.  However, we did not take home any titles or hardware.  We also had a ladies' team named the Comets that played hard and tough but did not win their division.  Many thanks to my teammates Wes, Juan, Ricky, Alex, and Israel for a great tournament experience.  Also, many thanks to the ladies' team for having fun with us and playing hard.

     I will try to post a full description of our teams' results soon.  I hope your team made it to Nationals and did well.  Congrats to all of the winners! 

Tampa and Challenge Nationls Photos are Loaded

Check out the 2013 photos page by clicking on the last link on the left to view photos from our 2013 Tampa Tournament competition and Challenge Nationals at Disney earlier this month.  The tournament reports can be found below.

Nationals and Tampa Photos!

I am just about to upload the photos from Tampa and Challenge Nationals.  Check the site for the latest photos coming soon!

Nationals Results

The coed crowd had a lot of fun at Challenge Nationals at Disney in Orlando.  Unfortunately, due to roster issues, injuries, and old age, we did not do as well as we had hoped.  Nonetheless, we had a great time and took home some nice hardware for our efforts.  Having three male players in the 45-50 year old age range hampered our efforts in the heat of the Florida sun.

On Thursday night, Israel, Misha, and Coach Bill drove most of the night to make it to Orlando in time to check in our team and play our first game on Friday against the Creek Soccer Hornets at 12:30.  The sun was blazing hot with no shade in sight, and Coach Bill's three players wilted in the contest with the six Hornets.  Although Bill scored the first goal of the tournament, the good guys lost 3-1 to the much younger team.  Our second game was at 2:00 on Friday against FC Rahr, and Wes joined us for the game after a long morning of air and ground travel.  However, the heat was no less oppressive, and we put up a good fight but ultimately lost 5-3.  By the end of the game, we were all exhausted and ready to retire to the pool at the Seralago hotel.  Later we got dinner at Downtown Disney.

On Saturday our hopes were high because Kristy drove up from Tampa to join us, and Juan drove all night from Atlanta to make it to the first Saturday game.  However, we were slotted to play a tough young Merica team at 9:30.  The game was a close match, but the Merica team pulled out the win 5-4, despite a couple of goals by Misha.  We limped into our final pool game at 12:30 to play Fire FC, hoping for the best.  We controlled the match, and got the 5-3 win.  This put us in fourth place in the pool, and forced us into an 8:00 a.m. game against Fire FC on Sunday morning.  We retired to the hotel exhausted and hot, spent some more time at the pool, and ultimately ate dinner at Hard Rock Cafe in Universal Studio's Citywalk.  Tired, we went to bed early to be ready for our early game.

On Sunday the sun came up shining as hot as ever, and the dew covered the field wetting ball and shoes.  We went ahead on Fire, but they came back to tie the game at 2-2.  With little time left in the game, Misha scored to give us the 3-2 win and put us into a match with Merica, the first place team.  By now our team was tired and hot, and the younger Merica team easily dispatched us 4-1.  Before leaving we played for third place against FC Rahr, however, Israel and Misha left before the game, leaving us with four players.  We played hard against the FC Rahr Texans, but came up just on the short side of third place with a 3-2 losing score.  Kudos to Kristy for playing nearly the entire final game with a sprained ankle.

Overall, we had a fun tournament, and felt that we were very competitive with all of the teams in the tournament.  We proudly took home fourth place hardware.  Thanks to Al, Ellen, and all of the Challenge staff for making the tournament a fun one for all in our group.  We hope you can join us next year!

Challenge Nationals

Well, there is less than a week until Nationals in Disney.  This year, Challenge Nationals has been able to field a full adult coed division.  We will be playing in that division, and we are thankful for the increased turnout this year.  My experience in the past has been that the coed division is tough because it is an open division featuring a lot of younger players.  My team consists of mostly older men, although our ladies are young.  It should be interesting to see how our older men stack up against the young fast guys on the other teams.  It will be a contest of tactics versus athleticism.  Wish us luck!

Come by to watch our games if you are at Disney for the tournament.  We have two games on Friday and two games on Saturday, with the playoffs on Sunday.  I hope that everyone has been able to field a team for this event, and that it is an enjoyable event for everyone.  Remember - the more teams that sign up, the more fun for everyone in the tournament!

Hope to see everyone on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Come by and say "hi"!

Nationals Here We Come!

Well it is getting close to the Challenge 3 vs. 3 Nationals at Disney August 2-4 and I'm excited.  If I can manage to avoid injury for the next couple of weeks I will be joining my team to play for the coed national championship at Disney.  I feel like we have a strong team, but our competition will be fierce.  For those of you following the results of the tournament, our team name is the same as this website.  Let's hope that I can finally bring a full roster of six to play in the tournament.

Judging from the Challenge website, there are teams from Florida and Alabama signed up to compete against us.  The players on my team are older, particularly the men, so it will be a challenge playing against younger players.  Coed is also an interesting game, in that the matchups between the women and men are intriguing.  It is always fun to watch a woman strip a male player of the ball, and it can be difficult to use the usual "V" defensive scheme when the matchups are so different.  Let's hope that my team adjusts quickly.  We will be bringing four veteran 3 vs. 3 players and perhaps two rookie players who will learn as they go.

I will also try to have a book signing/sales event at the Disney fields during the tournament, if I can find someone to cover the tent while I am playing.  Look for my tent down there if your team is playing.  I would be happy to chat soccer with you, and sign a book for you if you like.

Looking forward to 3 vs. 3 soccer fun in two weeks.  Hope everyone can join us there!

Recent Tournament Events

     It has been a while since I have been able to blog, in part because of some of the recent soccer tournaments to which I have traveled.  In May we brought two teams, both a coed team and a men's over 30 team, to the Challenge event in Tampa, Florida.  We had a blast there, and I also brought my tent for a book signing.  Our coed team consisted of Wande, Mert, Kristie, Megan, and Dwayne.  Our men's over 30 team consisted of Teo, Faruk, Bill, Engin, and Coach Bill.  Both teams did well, and ended up playing each other in the finals.  Both teams beat the men's recreational team that was paired with us.  Although our coed team lost to a men's competitive team, our men's over 30 team barely lost in a thrilling last minute contest to another men's competitive team that ended up winning the men's competitive division.  When our two teams played each other in pool play, the coed team prevailed.  But in the finals the men's over 30 team prevailed in a thrilling one goal win.  Thanks to all who participated!  We also had great fun kayaking, swimming, eating seafood, walking the beach, and dancing.

     I also participated in the Charleston 6v6 event held each year by the World Futbol Tour.  Although we brought two teams to the event, neither of our teams won a game.  My team did have two very close losses out of our three games.  We also had a blast, as we ate and drank, kayaked, and enjoyed the beach and the sunshine.  Many thanks to Diane, who every year makes our "Balls and Dolls" team into a fun group that enjoys the Charleston event.  This year there were many good teams at the event, and although we had some soccer "newbies" on our teams, the other teams had some semi-pros and college players that dominated the matches.  Many thanks to the World Futbol Tour for a great event.  At the World Futbol Tour events, the kids play 3 vs. 3 and the adults play 6-aside.  I hope everyone can take time to attend the Charleston tournament next year!

Challenge 3 vs. 3 National Finals Aug. 2-4

If all goes according to plan, I will be bringing a coed team to the Challenge National Finals at Disney on August 2-4, 2013.  I may also do a book signing there.  I hope everyone is signed up for the tournament at Disney.  It should be a blast!  Come have some soccer fun with us!

Book Signing Event This Weekend in Lake County, Florida!

This Saturday (July 6, 2013) I will be appearing for a book signing at the Challenge 3v3 Soccer Event in Lake County, Florida.  Come one and all!  Stop by my tent to talk 3 vs 3 soccer and grab some shade.  Hope to see you there!

The Four Corners Offense

One of the tactics that I discuss at length in my book on 3v3 soccer is the four corners offense. I named this offense for Dean Smith's four corners offense, used long ago by his University of North Carolina basketball team to wreak havoc with other teams. The strategy is this. When your team goes ahead, particularly late in a game, it can play "keep away" with the ball and run out the clock when the other team keeps a defensive player in front of the goal. The theory is that as long as the other team continues to guard its goal, your team has a 3-2 player advantage, and should always be able to find an open player to hold the ball and run out the clock.

In practice, it is more difficult. Your team must make sure that all players are moving into open position to receive the ball whenever they do not possess it. Your team must have sufficient ball skills to run the four corners without losing the ball. The other team may shift to "man-to-man" coverage, which if done properly can disorient the four corners offense. There is also a particular method of defending against the four corners offense that I discuss in detail in my book. Nonetheless, the four corners offense is a powerful weapon to use against a team once your team moves ahead in the scoring. Make sure that your team's skills are sufficient to run this offensive strategy well, and you will have another weapon in your arsenal for winning 3v3 soccer games.

The "Z" Pass Play

     One of the offensive tactics that works well in 3 vs. 3 soccer is a tactic I like to refer to as the "Z" pass play.  In short, the "Z" pass play is a breakout scoring play in which a team transitions from defense to offense, by passing the ball diagonally across the field at least twice, splitting the defense eack time.  The ultimate objective of the "Z" pass play is to get the ball to a teammate on offense at the back side of the goal box where there is an unobstructed shot at the goal.  Usually, the play starts with a blocked shot and then a breakout by at least two offensive players.  Initially, the ball is passed diagonally across the field between the defensive players (who are struggling to get back to defend) to an offensive player breaking towards the goal.  The player receiving the ball then passes immediately to the third offensive player who is crashing the goal on the far side for a first time shot or perhaps another diagonal pass.  The play results in a series of passes that can resemble the letter "Z" if done correctly.

     I mention this play because it is one that results in many goals in 3v3 soccer.  When executed perfectly, it is nearly unstoppable.  I discuss this play in some detail in my book.  If the passes are strong and well placed, the defensive team cannot react quick enough to defend their goal.  Of course, the play also requires quick players who can break out towards the goal and handle the ball at top speed.  Coaches - this is one to practice.  Set up some cones on the field and have your team practice this play over and over.  Your team will be glad it did so.

3 v 3 Offense Tactics

I often feel that I don't say enough about 3 v 3 offensive tactics.  Perhaps that is because, unlike football, there are very few (if any) set offensive plays in 3 v 3 soccer.  But there is still much to learn.  Rather than scripted tactics, I like to refer to a set of principles that assist with offense in 3 v 3.  Of course, having solid ball skills, quick feet, good stamina, and excellent passing vision are all very helpful when playing offense.  Some of the principles are:

1.  Be patient.  Do not force the ball at the goal.  Have enough confidence to play the ball around between your team's players for as long as it takes to position the ball for a good shot.  Remember that during the time that your team possesses the ball, the other team is not getting any scoring chances.

2.  Keep the ball on the ground.  The ball is easiest to shoot while it is on the ground, particularly on a first time shot.  Move it around and around as necessary on the ground in a way that does not risk losing possession.

3.  Keep moving when you do not have the ball.  The players that find unique places from which to take shots are most effective.  Of course, you need to find those places AND get there at a good time to shoot.  Make sure to keep moving enough to either lull the defense or confuse it.

4.  Remember that the areas that give an offensive player a good angle at the goal are the areas which are most dangerous to the defensive team.  Position yourself there repeately.

5.  Don't forget that you can curve the ball.  Using different foot angles and body positions, you can often take a dangerous shot where one does not seem to exist.  Using the outside of the foot to spin the ball can be tricky, as can chip shots, and hook shots with the instep.

Long Ball Tactics in 3 vs. 3

     OK.  Let's continue discussing some tactical fine points of 3 v. 3 soccer.  In my last blog I addressed one of my pet peeves in soccer - folks who don't move their feet while on the field.  Today I am going to discuss another pet peeve that does not comeup too often in 3 v. 3, but that should be addressed anyway.  That peeve is the long ball.

     Initially, it's important to note that because of the small size of the field in 3 v. 3 soccer, it is not possible to play a really long ball in the air during a 3 v. 3 game.  Doing so will merely turn the ball over to the other team when it goes out of bounds.  Although the long ball certainly has its place in the game of soccer, it is of far more use in the 11-aside game, than in 3 v. 3.  Generally, it is far better to play a hard pass along the ground to a teammate than a long ball in the air.  A hard pass on the ground is a more high percentage pass, and is easier to handle for the teammate receiving the ball.

     I still see some teams playing long balls in 3 v. 3 soccer.  Some highly skilled adult teams play an occasional long ball because they can do so with great accuracy.  Sometimes a well executed "chip" pass can also deliver the ball to a teammate who is standing behind a defender.  However, most teams using long ball passes just end up playing the ball out of bounds or turn the ball over to the other team.  With kids' teams the dynamics change a bit.  At some ages and skill levels kids' teams seem to win more in 3 v. 3 by playing long balls because they cannot bring the ball out of their own end successfully using short passes.  Kids' coaches should address this deficiency by teaching how to use the short pass effectively, rather than taking the easy way out by letting teams use the long ball to win a few games in the short term.

     Another related item is corner kicks in 3 v. 3.  Long corner kicks are almost never a good strategy!  Too often they result in 2 on 1 breakouts for the defensiv team.  Play possession for a more effective result.

Move Your Feet People!

OK.  Let's talk about a very basic issue that is essential to winning in small-sided soccer - running.  In 11-aside soccer, the field is big enough that a player who does not want to run can play a good portion of the game without moving around too much.  You know the type - the forward who doesn't move until he gets the ball and then puts on five moves before shooting, the defender who stays back and never asks for the ball, the midfielder who thinks that the centerhalf position means that you can stand at midfield and distribute the ball from there.  In 11-aside, those players don't hurt your team too much (although a case can be made that they are harmful to a team's success).

In 3 vs. 3 soccer, and in other short sided play, it is much more essential that every player on the field participate in both the offense and the defense.  A failure to run back to play defense will result in an automatic goal in 3 vs. 3 because the there is no goalie.  If one player does not come back to play defense, the other two players will only be able to ward off the other team for a short while until a goal results.  In 7-aside soccer, succeessful teams are fast enough and in good enough shape to bring most of their side up to play offense, and then drop the majority of their side back to play defense.  if you want to be successful in 3 vs. 3 soccer, one of the most important atributes to have is sufficient speed and endurance to run the entire field, at least until you can call for a substitution.  You cannot contribute if you are not in the play.

I confess that the idea for this blog post occurred to me as I watched one of my 7-aside teams lose to a team that did a better job of bringing its players back to play defense before my team could mount a fast break attack.  But there is another subtle advantage to being able to run the entire field.  If your team's players are moving around, there is a better chance that they will be able to receive an offensive pass while in position to take a high percentage shot.  Teams that stand still on offense are easy to defend.  Teams that move quickly are much more difficult to defend.  Don't hurt your team's chances!  Do some speed and endurance training!

2013 Kickit Nationals

As always, a wonderful time was had by all at the 2013 Kickit Nationals at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida this year.  The weather was generally good, although a bit windy and chilly the first day.  Th fields were in great shape too.  All in all, it was a really fine venue for some 3 vs. 3 soccer, although the number of teams this year seemed reduced.

I arrived in Orlando at around 3:00 a.m. on Thursday night (perhaps more accurately Friday morning) with kayaks in tow.  Unlike past years, I came without any of the usual cast of assorted characters from Atlanta who accompany me to these tournaments.  When I arrived, I texted my buddy Wes from Baltimore, and we shared a quick glass of wine before I retired to bed.  In the morning, I found out that there was a death in my family the night before, and I was sorely tempted to return to Atlanta immediately.  However, my parents intervened and with their assistance I was able to stay in Orlando until Monday.

At about noon on Friday Wes and I grabbed a sandwich for lunch, and found some very interesting wildlife in the parking lot of the shopping plaza.  You can see a  photograph of one of the critters on the 2013 Kickit Nationals Photos page.  We then drove to the airport to pick up the ladies for our coed team.  The ladies were happy to see us, and we all drove back to the hotel to let them unpack.  Dinner that night was at the Indian restaurant, and a short dip in the hot tub hastened my return to my room for sleep.  Shortly after I got into bed, my buddy Israel arrived from Atlanta to complete the Atlanta contingent for 2013.  Our first game was at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

This was my first year playing exclusively coed, and we had trouble putting enough men on the field to help out the excellent and consistent play we got from our ladies.  For our first two games on Saturday we were assisted by Alan, a player from Texas who proved to be a good asset.  In the first game against the North Starz, Alan, Isreal, and I each scored, and we won the game 3-2.  Little did we know it would be the highlight of our tournament.  In the second game, we stayed close to Barcelona, reputedly a former national championship team, but our lack of a fourth male player hurt our chances.  After bringing the game to a one goal contest early in the second half, we gave up three quick goals because we had to pressure Barcelona, which capitalized on our pressuring to ultimately win 7-3.  Lisa had a really nice goal in the game, and Israel and I also scored.  We still felt good about our chances because our fourth male player was to arrive for Sunday's games, and we had a good shot at a number 2 seed if we won our Sunday morning game.

In the meantime, Wes' team, the Travelers, also lost their first two games because they had only 3 players due to the disappearance of one player, and a delayed airplane flight for another.  The scores in their first two games were 6-2 and 6-3.  They were disappointed, but hoped to improve.

That night we all went out to the Kobi Steakhouse for some incredible food and fun.  There was so much good food that everyone was stuffed.  Five of us decided to go out dancing afterwards at the Universal Studios City Walk Latin club.  Wes and Israel showed some great dance moves on the floor, but I sat it out due to a complete lack of Latin dance ability.  Nonetheless, good fun was had by all.

Unfortunately, our Sunday games did not go so well.  The first game should have been a win against the MSA Stars, but we only had four players as Alan could not join us, and my friend Sarge from Florida was delayed by a fender bender accident.  Despite being close the entire game, and in fact dominating for most of the contest, we lost in exhaustion 4-2.  Israel scored both of our goals in the game.  This left us as the number 4 seed out of our pool, which meant that we played the number 1 seed from the other pool at 3:00 p.m. in the first round of the playoffs.  In that game, Sarge finally arrived to help us out despite his accident, but Alan was not able to play with us due to coaching his kids team.  This left us down a man again.  Our opponent, Mach, went ahead immediately with two quick goals, and I was afraid that we would get blown out.  However, we then went into a pressure defense which proved effective, and our ladies took turns valiantly guarding our goal.  We came nearly all the way back using our pressure defense, but ultimately lost 4-3.  I scored two goals, and Diane had a terrific goal in the match.  Mach ended up playing against the Terminators in the finals, so we felt really good about the result.

In the meantime, Wes' team won its third pool game against Chembo United 6-2, now that they had four players, and went on the play Sealtite in the first round of the playoffs.  It was a seesaw contest in which the lead changed hands, but overall it appeared that the Travelers were going to prevail.  However, their lack of subs tired their best players, and with about five seconds to play Sealtite came back to tie them.  Sealtite then pushed in a goal through Nelson's steadfast defensive posture in sudden death overtime to knock the Travelers out of the tournament.  It was still a good result despite the loss.  Having only four players was a definite handicap, and Sealtite went on to lose by a goal in the finals to Pikes.

Although we were knocked out of the tournament, the fun did not stop.  Wes took a group to the Ale House to watch the Baltimore Ravens game.  I went to eat at the Rain Forest Cafe, where I had some really excellent company for the evening.  Later at the Ale House we watched the end of the Ravens game, and then some of us again went dancing at the City Walk.

In the morning, we said our good byes, and I got on the road back to Atlanta.  I was sad to leave, but I have some great memories from this year's competition.  Next year we will return to try to take the championship.  Please check out the photos on the 2013 Kickit Nationals Photos page!

I plan to start blogging on various 3 vs. 3 strategies and techniques in the coming months.  I hope you will visit regularly and contribute.