Building Through the Thirds - Small Sided Game
Setup: Create a playing area that is 60 yards long by 40 yards wide. Each zone will be 20x40 yards. This will create 3 zones on the field that the players must build up through. In the beginning I place 2 small goals on each end of the field then progress to 1 large goal on one end and 2 small goals on the other end.
Organization: In the defending third the Blues have 3 defenders vs 2 Red attackers. In the middle zone it is 2v2 and in the attacking zone it is 2 Blue attackers vs 3 Red defenders. The ball is started from the defensive zone and must be played into each zone. When the ball is played from the defensive third into the middle third 1 defender may join the middle zone. Also, when the ball is played form the middle zone to the attacking zone, 1 play may join into the attacking zone to make it 3v3 in the final third. Players on the defending team cannot leave their zone.
Variations: This exercise is very flexible, if you need help in the build up with younger ages you can make it 4v2 in the defending zone. Also, if you want to focus on the play of the 3 midfielders then you can make it 3v3 in the middle zone and 3v1 in the defensive zone. Finally, I like to create end with allowing the defenders to leave their zones and try to press to when the ball back which allows the attacking team to play under more pressure.
Coaching Points: When building through the zone it is important to move the ball from side to side until you can go forward with a good first touch and then ball into the next zone. Encourage the defenders to play the ball until 1 can drive forward into the next zone or pass into the next zone. Encourage the players to play the way they face and try to have a body shape that is open to the field so they can keep possession and play forward when possible. Players should look to create an overload in the midfield zone and really work on finding the extra player who can go forward. In the attacking zone their are two goals so encourage 1v1 attacking!
Short video of a team that I coach going through a variation which includes the goalkeeper on one end starting the build up.