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Soccer's vital area key to scoring.

The three major aspects of goal scoring are shooting technique, scoring attitude, and field awareness (ref. 1-2).

Shattuck (3) recommends a shooting technique consisting of an approach with short, quick steps, a steady head, proper contact with the ball, and a long follow-through toward the goal, finishing with the hips facing the target.

In case of inaccuracy, the first place to look is the contact. Ideally, the shooter should contact the ball in the center and keep the ball low. If the ball carries over the goal, the shooter has contacted the ball too low, causing it to rise over the goal.

A short follow through toward the goal will keep the ball low and on target. If the kicking leg veers out instead of following through straight to the goal, chances are the ball will go wide.

The third important factor in shooting technique is body control. The approach with short quick steps will keep the shooter's body on balance. Long steps will usually put the player off-balance when striking the ball.

Players who swing too hard at the ball may also lose body control, causing the ball to go off target. The ball must be struck properly to ensure an accurate kick.

The second aspect of goal scoring is the proper shooting attitude (3). A positive, aggressive attitude is necessary to score goals. The players must view the shot as a chance to score a goal, not as a chance to make a mistake.

If the shot is missed, the player must shrug it off and prepare for the next opportunity to shoot. Her attitude will manifest itself in her willingness to shoot from any place on the field at any time.

Once the player receives the ball, she should think score -- accept the responsibility for making or missing the shot. When open, she must shoot -- not pass the ball for fear of missing the shot. That's a vital factor to look for in correcting mistakes -- the shooter's fear of missing.

To score goals, the players have to combine good technique with the right scoring attitude.

The third important factor in good scoring is field awareness (1, 2, 3). Field awareness involves player positioning, both offensively and defensively, and a visual map of the field. This will let the player know how to adjust to the ball during the flow of the game.


A simple concept can be used to teach the players how to improve their shooting through an awareness of the field. The concept is predicated on the vital area in front of the goal (Diag. 1). This area extends at approximately a 45-degree angle from each goal post and is joined by an arc that extends roughly 25 yards from the center of the goal (3).


Almost every goal scored during a game is shot from this area. A recent review of the game statistics of a major NCAA Division I women's soccer team validates this point and demonstrates the importance of the vital area (4).

The team took 500 shots in 18 games and scored 75 goals. 346 of the shots were taken from within the vital area and 154 from immediately outside the vital area. These numbers clearly demonstrate that shooting from inside the vital area dramatically improves the chance of scoring.

Coaches often emphasize shooting technique and the proper scoring attitude. The underlying principle is that when players are in or near the vital area they must first look to shoot, since that is the highest-percentage scoring territory.

When outside of the vital area, the players should look to pass to someone in or near the vital area, as the outside area presents the lowest-percentage shot.

Coaching point: Never overlook the opportunity to score from any position on the field, especially when the goalkeeper is caught out of position or off guard.

What coaches are doing, in short, is playing the percentages. Dorrance (1) states that playing percentages is like "playing against the game." A team can completely dominate a game, outshoot its opponents by a wide margin, and end up losing. Teams have to capitalize on their shooting opportunities -- finish the chances they create, capitalize on their superiority.

How does a team improve on its finishing ability? By immediately looking for the shot upon nearing the vital area. When outside the vital area the player must look for the pass to someone in or near the vital area who's in position to shoot. This simple concept will improve the players' awareness of when and where to shoot or pass.

The coach should begin the teaching process by outlining the vital area on the field and giving the players the statistics on the advantage of shooting from this area. This will accentuate the importance of field awareness in shooting.

One of the better ways of introducing the vital area is by having the players dribble or receive passes from outside of the vital area and then look for the shot after penetrating the area.

The vital area can also be added to small-sided and full-sided practice games. These two activities will improve the players' field awareness and shot selection during play.


Dorrance (1) also recommends the expansion of the vital area into a box organization -- organizing the players within the penalty area. By framing the goal -- putting players into position around the goal -- the offense can enhance its chances of receiving the ball from a service into the box or from a rebound off a shot at goal -- improving the scoring chances (Diag. 2).


Any time a player takes a shot, one player will be running at one post, another player will be running at the other post, and another will be running at the goalkeeper.

In essence, these players widen the goal. The players running wide of the goal have the opportunity to redirect wide shots and deflected shots toward the goal. The player running at the goalkeeper has a good chance to finish balls that have been mishandled by the keeper.

Basic concept: Whenever a player is preparing to shoot, the players ahead of the ball should frame the goal. The post players should set up roughly two yards wide of each post, while a third player should start from around the penalty spot and move toward the goalkeeper.

Their choice of positions should be based on the actions of the player on the ball (shooter). Once they recognize that their teammate is preparing to shoot, the players in the best positions to frame the goal should begin to move toward these positions.

Their positioning will improve the team's opportunity to pick up "half chances" on rebounds and score. It will also enable them to exploit the tendency of the goalkeepers to parry shots that they cannot handle (5) -- deflect the ball away from the goal, usually toward the far post from the shooter.

The players in the box will usually be waiting in the area in which the ball will most likely be parried (1). If, for example, a player is shooting from the left side, another player will be running at the keeper, just in case she tries to catch the ball and can't hang on to it.

Such drops in front of the goal can be finished off by the waiting offensive player.

In teaching box organization, coaches should make sure not to assign players from specific positions to frame the goal, as this won't always be possible.

For example, the right forward should not always be responsible for covering the right post, as player positioning is constantly changing, based on the flow of play.

Everyone must have an understanding of the framing process. The positioning is based on two factors: the flow of the game and the formation of the team. The flow brings different players into the framing positions throughout the game, while the team formation indicates which players are most likely to wind up in the framing positions.

The forwards and midfielders will most often be in position to frame the goal. But the choice of players is not important. The important concepts to remember are the areas that have to be covered and the timing involved in moving into these areas.


Another essential aspect of the vital area is dealing with services into the box -- finding the finishing seams and hitting targets. Seams are spaces between two defenders into which a ball can be played. Targets are areas into which the ball should be served.

The target areas for serving the ball into the box are the near post, mid-goal, and far-post areas (1, 6, 2). The ball should be served out of the goalkeeper's reach, yet close enough to allow a quality finishing shot.

This area usually extends from a point six yards from the goal out to 12 yards. The width of the area is just beyond each goal post (Diag. 3).


The positioning of the players in framing the goal for receiving services into the vital area is the same as it is in framing the goal on shots at goal. The players should target their runs to cover the near post, mid-goal, and the far post areas (1, 6, 2).

Timing: The players should arrive at the target space the same time as the ball.

If the run is made too early, it will force the receiver to wait for the ball, which will take away the momentum she needs to strike the ball cleanly, as well as give the defense a good chance to win the ball.

If the ball arrives late, the player will have to rush the shot, causing a poor shot at best.

The receiving player must take three factors into consideration in receiving services into the vital area: (1) her position in relation to the goal and the vital area, (2) the momentum of her run, and (3) the pace of the pass.

If the player receives the ball inside the vital area, she should look to play it to someone in the vital area who has a scoring chance.

If the player's momentum is toward the goal, she should play the ball to the goal.

If her momentum is away from the goal, she should play the ball to another player rather than risk losing possession by forcing a shot.

Services with little pace must be gotten to and directed to the goal.

Services with pace may be directed toward the goal or allowed to run through to another player.


As coaches, we want our player to have sound shooting techniques coupled with a positive attitude that allows them to shoot from any position on the field.

The purpose of teaching the vital area is to increase goal scoring by improving field awareness.

The vital area provides an abstract guide for facilitating decisions and is designed to help players improve their play against the percentages of the game.

The vital area helps players decide when to shoot and when to pass based on their location on the field.

It also helps teams make decisions about the shape and structure in and around the goal area, and provides a decision-making guide for dealing with services into the box.

The vital area can, thus, be an important tool for the tactical development of your team.


[1.] A. Dorrance and T. Nash: Training Soccer Champions. Brittany Point, CT: JTC Sport, 1996.

[2.] J. Yeagley: Spalding Soccer Strategies. Indianapolis, IN: Masters Press, 1992.

[3.] J. Shattuck: "Individual Attacking, Part 1." Belmont, MA: International Tactics, 1988.

[4.] W. Finley: "Mississippi State U. Women's Soccer Team's 1996 NCAA Game Statistics," Starkville, MI, 1997.

[5.] J. A. Luxbacher and G. Klein: The Soccer Goalkeeper (2nd edition), Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1983.

[6.] A. Wade: Modern Tactical Development, Spring City, PA: Reedswain, Inc., 1996.
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Author:Chevrette, L.
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Dec 1, 1997
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