How to Beat a Zone Defense
This post is in case Virginia uses its zone defense again this weekend. I'd be surprised if it opened in a zone; but if Syracuse's midfielders prove too much for Virginia's shortstick defenders, then a zone may be the answer.
*Take Outside Shots. In this regard, attacking the zone is no different from basketball. One reason teams struggled when using a zone against Johns Hopkins is that Hopkins has excellent outside shooters. Given time and space, Hopkins will hit corners almost every time.
And the zone gives offenses time and space if the offense moves the ball quickly and crisply.
*Skip Passes. Picture three players standing in a row. The player at one end has the ball. He passes to the player at the other end and skips the player in the middle; hence the term "skip pass." A skip pass from Nick Mirabito to Tim Paul led to the winning goal in overtime against Bucknell's zone in the regular season. The pass went from one wing to the other and "skipped" the offensive player in the middle of the offensive box.
The skip pass is the easiest way for a player to get his hands free for a shot.
*Backdoor Cuts. The definition of a zone defense is that all six defenders are watching the ball. And "ball watching" defenses leave themselves vulnerable to quick cuts from a player coming out of the view of the defenders.
This is the play Maryland tried to hit in overtime against UVa. The ball was at the top of the offensive box. The offensive player tried to sneak from behind the goal into a spot just in front of the goal without the nearby ball-watching defenders noticing. In this case, Virginia was ready because Maryland had hit the play a few minutes earlier in regulation. (The ensuing shot hit the crossbar.)
In particular, junior D Matt Kelly was ready; when the ball was not in his area, Kelly turned around and watched the area behind the goal. He was looking for those backdoor cuts.
*Use Extra-Man Offense Personnel. This is why Maryland freshman Brett Weiss was on the field in overtime rather than classmate Travis Reed. As ESPNU analyst Matt Ward said during a broadcast earlier this year, a popular tactic to attack the zone is with extra-man plays, since most man-down defenses play a zone.
It's the easiest way for an offense that may not have prepared to face a zone defense to attack it.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
The comments to this entry are closed.