Best Attacking Strategies for Pickup Soccer – Part 2

Expert section: Mate Kontra – I’ve played soccer at a very high level all my life. Throughout my time playing, I’ve been coached by ex-pro, D1, and Academy level coaches, currently playing at the MLS-Next level. Having played countless pickup games in my free time, I have experience with what strategies work. Today, I will share the most effective attacking strategies for pickup games to help you win.

Soccer Photo

Pickup is a form of soccer that players can enjoy with no restrictions, or a coach telling them what to do. 

Teams can use any tactic and formation they wish, making the team strategies very diverse. 

In the first part of this article, we discussed three of the most competitive attacking strategies that teams can use to outscore their opponents. 

So in this article, we will share three more great attacking strategies that can increase your chances of winning your next pickup game.

Related article: What Gear Do You Need for Organizing Pickup Soccer?

Pickup Soccer Players Around a Soccer Ball
‘Pickup Soccer Players Around a Soccer Ball’ (#1 Envato – YuriArcursPeopleImages)

Three Great Attacking Strategies for Pickup Soccer

The following list of strategies is focused on helping your team create scoring opportunities that your team can capitalize on. 

Each strategy follows the principles of creating space and using it to catch the opponents off-guard, making it easier to score. 

They have been picked from personal experience, and because of their effectiveness. 

We provided thorough explanations for every strategy, when they should be used, as well as their advantages, and disadvantages. 

Remember to check out any links for in-depth explanations for discussed topics under each subsection. 


#1: False 9 

The False 9 attacking strategy is centered around a specific position on the field.

This position is called the False 9, which replaces the 9th player on the field, the striker. 

But instead of playing as a traditional striker, the False 9 focuses on roaming around the attacking third to create opportunities for their team. 

Hence the “false” 9.

The central idea behind having a false 9 is that by constantly moving around, the defenders also have to constantly adjust.

You can think of it as a decoy to distract defenders from the real threat. 

As the defenders adjust their positioning according to the False 9, they will naturally leave uncovered gaps in their defensive line. 

These open spaces are then used by other attackers to receive the ball and create scoring opportunities. 

Female Player Shoots Ball With Laces
‘Female Soccer Player Shooting the Ball With Laces’ (#2 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)

When should you use this strategy? 

The best time to use the False 9 strategy is when your team has a player who is more skillful than everyone else. 

Since the False 9 position is very individualistic, the designated player must be intelligent with their decisions and skillful on the ball. 

They regularly make important decisions on their own, often risking losing the ball for a better scoring chance. 

Essentially, they are the heart and brains of the attack, because everyone adjusts to their movement and thinking.

So the better they are, the better the team will be.

On the contrary, if the opposing team is utilizing the man-marking defensive strategy, it may be better to avoid using False 9. 

In this scenario, the False 9 position will be constantly guarded by an opposing player, which eliminates them as a passing option. 

So unless they are incredibly fast with mind-blowing dribbling skills, they will be limited in their abilities and likely have little impact on the game. 

Pros & Cons

The primary advantage of the False 9 strategy is allowing teams to take advantage of skillful players. 

Many teams have one or two standout players who get the ball most often. 

When using the False 9 strategy, it is much easier to use them as an outlet to build out the attack and create scoring chances. 

Furthermore, the False 9 is also advantageous because it naturally opens gaps in the opposition’s defense. 

Without even receiving the ball, the movement of the False 9 will attract the opposing defenders, taking them away from the rest of the attackers. 

This allows them to have more space, as well as a numeric advantage in the attack, increasing their scoring chances. 

Advantages in short:

  • Takes advantage of standout players’ skill
  • Provides an outlet for the team
    • To progress the attack
    • To create scoring chances
  • Opens gaps in the opponents’ defense
    • False 9’s movement attracts defenders
    • More space for teammates
    • Numeric advantage in the attack

The most significant disadvantage of the False 9 strategy is that it’s predictable.

Since one player will be used as the primary outlet for playmaking, it will be obvious to the opponents that they receive the ball most often. 

Additionally, the False 9 strategy requires players to run more than most other strategies. 

They will likely get exhausted earlier in the game, decreasing the level of performance in the endgame.

Disadvantages in short:

  • Predictable
  • Can be easily countered
  • Requires players to run more
    • Causes fatigue

#2: One-touch passing 

The One-touch passing strategy is exactly what it sounds like. 

Instead of holding the ball and dribbling, it’s passed to the next player as quickly as possible. 

The idea is that the ball moves faster than the player, which allows the least amount of time for the opponents to make defensive decisions. 

By using the principle of “playing what you see”, this strategy speeds up decision-making and circulates the ball more efficiently. 

So instead of taking more time to find the best option, the ball is passed to the next player until gaps open and the attack can progress forward. 

Soccer Player Preparing to Pass the Ball
‘Soccer Player Preparing to Pass the Ball’ (#3 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)

Movement off the ball

Movement off the ball is a critical aspect of the One-touch-passing strategy because it creates space for teammates to receive the ball and build the attack. 

It ensures that there is always an open passing option which helps maintain possession of the ball. 

Additionally, constant movement disorganizes the opponents’ defense as they adjust their defensive shape. 

This opens gaps between their defensive line that can be used to create scoring chances, putting them in a disadvantageous position. 

Player Positioning & Body Positioning

To string together passes and circulate the ball efficiently, players are required to have great positioning on the pitch. 

They have to be in the right place at the right time to receive the ball and pass it to the next option. 

Contributing to players’ movement off the ball, the position that they move into is what gives their teammates passing options. 

Players must also remember that the objective is to move the ball as quickly as possible, so they must have the correct body positioning to pass the ball to the next option. 

Taking extra touches kills the advantage that the strategy provides and it will become ineffective. 

To have good body positioning, face your hips toward the next passing option and take two touches at most to complete an accurate pass. 

When should you use this strategy?

One-touch passing should be used when most players on the team are of equal skill level, and can consistently perform accurate passes. 

Having similar skill levels is one of the most significant aspects of this strategy because weak links increase the probability of losing the ball. 

These players are unreliable passing options and would likely drag the team down. 

On the other hand, you should not use this strategy against a team that uses the low-block defensive strategy

When teams use the low-block strategy, they will maintain their defensive shape regardless of what happens, defeating the purpose of the False 9. 

Quick passes will not open gaps between their defense as they would otherwise, so I recommend using a different attacking strategy. 

Pros & Cons

A significant advantage that the one-touch passing strategy has is exhausting the opposing team. 

By forcing them to keep running to adjust their positioning, over time the defenders will get fatigued. 

This gives attackers the edge because their legs will be more fresh and capable. 

Furthermore, the fatigue will cause opponents to be slower, opening more gaps in their defense that can be used to create scoring chances. 

Advantages in short:

  • Drains opponents’ energy
    • Gives attackers a physical advantage
  • Fatigue causes opponents to make more mistakes
    • Makes it easy to create scoring chances

While this strategy is great for opening up space and circulating the ball efficiently, it also has a significant disadvantage. 

Since players have to move the ball quickly, it’s common for them to make rushed decisions. 

This can cause a loss of possession in dangerous areas which often leads to conceding a goal. 

For the same reason, this strategy requires skillful players who make better decisions consistently. 

Making fewer mistakes leads to conceding fewer goals. 

Disadvantages in short:

  • Requires skillful players who make fewer mistakes
  • Players often make rushed decisions
  • Rushed decisions can easily lead to conceding a goal

#3: Long-Ball

The long-ball strategy in pickup soccer is one of the most aggressive attacking strategies you can use. 

It consists of playing long passes from deep areas of the field, into the opponent team’s defensive third. 

Generally, players from deep areas of the field will perform these passes, such as defenders or deep-lying playmakers. 

The objective is to quickly progress the ball from the defense into the attacking third, by skipping the midfield.

Female Soccer Player Passing
‘Female Soccer Player Passing’ (#4 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)

When should you use this strategy? 

The first sign that indicates the use of the long-ball strategy is having a midfield that lacks creativity. 

This is because a midfield that lacks creativity will struggle to solve problems in tight situations, making it difficult to build the attack.

So skipping the midfield is the most efficient method to progress the ball into the attacking third. 

Another sign that tells you to use the long-ball strategy is having big, strong attackers who can hold off defenders. 

This allows your team to hold the ball in the attacking third long enough to provide supporting runs and create a goalscoring opportunity. 

Last, but not least, having attackers who are skillful on the ball is also a sign that the long-ball strategy can be effective. 

Skillful players are more likely to problem-solve in high-pressure situations, such as being challenged by a defender. 

Pros & Cons

The first, and most obvious advantage of this strategy is that the attack progression skips the midfield. 

This creates a fast-paced transition from defense to offense, helping the forwards catch defenders out of position and score. 

Another advantage of the long-ball strategy is its effectiveness against the high-press strategy. 

When opponents push their lines higher up the pitch, it leaves their defense vulnerable. 

By skipping the midfield, attackers can take advantage of a weak defense and easily create scoring opportunities. 

Advantages in short:

  • Midfield skipped during the buildout
  • Allows quick transitions from defense to attack
  • Highly effective against high-pressing teams

The most significant disadvantage that you should consider before choosing this strategy is the lack of possession that your team will have. 

Less possession will naturally limit the team’s ability to maintain control of the game and players will have to run much more. 

Furthermore, playing too many long passes will make the strategy predictable.

Opponents will be able to anticipate the next move and prevent attackers from having any chance of scoring. 

Disadvantages in short:

  • Lack of possession
    • Limits ability to control the game
    • Players have to run more. 
  • Strategy can become predictable
    • Reduces chances of scoring
Player Finishing the Walk-On
‘Player Finishing the Walkout’ (#5 Unsplash – Jeffrey F Lin)


The False 9 Strategy is centered around a player on the pitch that replaces the striker position. 

Generally, they are more skilled than everyone else on the team so they are appointed as the heart of the attack, the playmaker. 

They serve as an outlet in tight situations where elite problem-solving is required. 

One-touch passing is the strategy where players circulate the ball around the field as fast as possible. 

Players tend to use only one touch to deliver the ball to the next option on the field, drastically increasing the speed of play. 

This causes opposing defenders to be disorganized, opening spaces for attackers to create scoring chances. 

Lastly, the Long-ball strategy is used to skip the midfield and deliver the ball directly to the opposition’s defensive third. 

Strong attackers are used for maintaining possession of the ball long enough for their teammates to perform supporting runs and progress the attack forward. 

It is an effective strategy to quickly transition from defense to offense and attack a vulnerable opposition. 

Image Attribution & Licensing

Featured Image: ‘Soccer Team Celebrating a Goal’ by YuriArcursPeopleImages (Licensed via EnvatoElements)

#1: ‘Pickup Soccer Players Around a Soccer Ball’ by YuriArcursPeopleImages (Licensed via EnvatoElements)

#2: ‘Female Soccer Player Shooting the Ball With Laces’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)

#3: ‘Soccer Player Preparing to Pass the Ball’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)

#4: ‘Female Soccer Player Passing’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)

#5: ‘Player Finishing the Walkout’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)