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The Offside Trap: A Defender's Best Friend

What is the Offside Trap?

First of all, head on over to the offside page for an explanation of how that rule works if you don't yet have a good understanding of it. The offside rule is used to prevent players from camping out in their opponents half of the field.

That said, some smart coaches learned that the rule can be exploited so that the defending team can actively try to place their opponents offside. This is, in effect, what the offside trap is: Actively trying to put the opposing team offside.

Offsides Are Frustrating!

Indeed they can be!  Strikers will groan and moan and otherwise get very upset if they constantly find themselves offside.  As a defender, however, the offside rule can be your best friend if you learn to use it to your advantage with an effective strategy known as the offside trap.

How's It Done?

The offside trap absolutely relies on the teamwork and communication of the back line.

In a typical game situation, defenders will be marking the attacker goal side.

When the defence recognizes that a pass is about to be made, one of the centerbacks will act as a general and shout out the instruction to push up to the other defenders, making entire back line push forward, leaving the attacker in an offside position as soon as the ball is played to them

Remember, if your acting as the general, you have the responsibility of organizing your back line. Be very, very sure when you yell out the instruction to push up to your defenders. A mistake here could cost your team dearly.

As a defender, it's important to recognize and anticipate the situations where the offside trap may be used, and follow the instruction to push up.

When should it be used?

The trap is best used against teams attempting long or through balls past your defence. These teams likely have a speedy forward and will want to create a foot race with your back line. The trap will frustrate this player and force him to be constantly mindful of both his and the defence's back line at all times, and effectively neutralize the "kick and chase" strategy, as it's sometimes known. Be careful though! The trap is a high risk play since all four defenders MUST move together in tandem. Otherwise, the attacker will remain onside and have almost a free run at goal. It's important, therefore, to pick the appropriate time to use it. The most common examples are:
  1. Whenever the ball is in the control of the goal keeper, all players should push out to the half way line as soon as possible, forcing the attacking team to retreat or find themselves offside
  2. When a ball is played to a forward acting as a target man, who then lays the pass off to a team mate behind him, the entire back line should push out as the target man will be forced offside and have to retreat

In any case, remember to listen to your team mates! Place one player in charge of calling "Push" and listen to only that player.

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