Team Terminology

Soccer is played at a frantic pace. Things happen quickly. These single and uncomplicated instructions take the place of a long conversation with or from a coach or a teammate. Each word depicts an action that needs a calculated response.


KEEPER – The goalkeeper shouts this to inform defenders that they are coming off the line to take the ball – defenders cover to the side and behind.

Overlap – Initiated by a player passing the ball out to a wide-player (near the side of the pitch), and then links with that wide-player after running around the defender to the outside of the wide-player, to receive a pass from the wide-player creating a 2 v 1 movement.

Flank – On the side of the field depending on which way the player is facing.

OUT – Move up the field as a defensive unit leaving the opponent players in an offside position – a quick action.

SQUEEZE – Every player goes into a tight marking mode and is always done as a group effort nobody is open.

SIT – Informs a player to stay in that area of the field and take control of the game often midfield.

HOLD – Stay as a defensive unit, do not retreat back toward your own goal.

SAG – Come off and away a few yards from their player they are marking, time to think about how to give a little cover.

FILL IN – Go to the area of the field where a player has made a long run from and who will not be able to recover immediately.

Through – Where players are looking for a penetrating pass in the channels between defenders going to goal.

CLOSE DOWN – Deny the opponent any space or room to play, the immediate need is to limit the opponent player an opportunity to play a forward ball, make them play a square ball, and give no other passing channels or options.

BITE – This is encouragement for players to make a tackle usually from a player behind who is able to cover.

ORGANIZE – Talk to each other, regain the shape of the team, multiple players look around to mark and stop the opponents.

GOALSIDE – Place yourself and other players between the opponent and your goal slow down the opponent with the ball looking to gain time as a team.

PICK UP – Take initiative and mark their players.

RUNNER – One of the opposition players is making a run from midfield, a dangerous player who needs to be picked up.

TARGET – A command that is advising the player in possession to play the ball to a forward target player to start an attack.

EARLY BALL – Minimum number of touches to get the ball forward to target players, or into the danger zone across the face of the goal. Needs to be a penetrating pass, but not a big through ball that the goalkeeper can collect. A chipped flighted ball that drops behind the backline but has backspin so it just dies before the penalty spot. From the flanks, it is a wide player or a full back doing an overlap and before they get level to the top of the penalty box send a firm curved ball that flashes across the face of the goal between the 6-yard line and the penalty spot even top of the box if the defenders are keeping a high line. These types of deliveries are called ‘killer passes’ because they are so dangerous for defenders and goalkeepers to cope with and create the best offensive chances.

THIRD – Associated with a 3rd player in a sequence of passes who makes a dynamic run into space, this player’s effort needs to be rewarded with a good pass as it springboards your team in offense.

SOLO – One v One situation going forward it gives the player the momentum to take their defender on to beat the player and go past to either go solo to a goal or get into a great passing situation to produce an ‘early ball’ to players in a better position to score.

ON DECK – The front players should be looking to make runs into the penalty box and get between the goalpost hash marks, near and far post, the weak side forward diagonal runs into the box to cover an over hit early ball. This type of run, when timed to match up with a wide player who is looking to serve an early ball across the face of the goal between either the top of the box or the six-yard line depending on how deep the server is and how advanced the runs have been made, the other early ball, is still between the penalty spot and six-yard line. A good service is going behind the last defender on the side of the delivery and has enough bend on it to straighten and flash across the face of the goal and is far enough from the keeper to handle the cross.

MAN ON – You are under pressure and about to be challenged. No panic, but you need to make quick decisions. Limit your touches of the ball in defensive areas play quickly the way you are facing keeping possession, move the ball quickly and decisively in midfield getting a ball into target players, and then getting the return pass releases the pressure. Forwards need to play under this pressure try and lure a defender to you so you can hold and retain the ball and shield it and with a quick release pass, use the space the defender who put you under pressure came from.  Hare and Fox games are fun.

TIME – You have no players around you or about to be challenged. Concentrate on the ball, get it under control early and use the extra time to punish the opponent by getting your head up and finding teammates, first with a look for an early ball or penetrating forward pass to feet.

NEAR – This is a body language signal where you place your hand palm up at the side and it represents a low ball to feet toward the six-yard box for a first-time finish on goal, find me I will find your service.

FAR – This is a body language signal where you raise your hand above your head to signify you can make a run to the far post, find me I will find your service.

CHANGE – Time to switch the play to the other flank, there will be open players and it will force the opponent to do a lot of running and even allow us to perform an overlapping run and get an early ball in across the face of their goal.

TWO TOUCH – Use the first touch to control the ball (i.e. to the side forward or turn) then pass or shoot.

FIRST TIME – Pass or shoot without any control or touch always think of accuracy on the pass to feet – on the shot hit the goal frame.

STEADY – Keep control of the ball, maintain possession, play the ball around and go and support. Play quickly but stay calm and in control – no real need to penetrate the opponent let players get into position. Slow the game down if the opponent has just made things a little hectic and your team needs to regroup and get your shape back.

TURN – No opponent players are close or behind you turn 180 Degrees and face up the field and select the best pass, which is likely a target player to feet.

BREAK – Go wide the full-backs and wide midfield players get both of their heels on the touchline; you see the entire field and give the most width that is available to our team.


All of these single words go to make a cohesive team terminology understanding of what is happening with in a game.  They are intended for each player to digest and try and install this communication across all positions and every game situation. When you hear multiple players giving this advice on how to best succeed in a game you witness comradery, teamwork, and a general improvement in, group and individual performance and cooperation.