Watch some of the greatest soccer passes of all time, and then we will discuss what makes them so great, and how to improve your own passing.
Being a great passer goes way beyond playing the soccer ball to the person you want. Here are some things to consider when thinking about good soccer passing:
1. Weight of the pass
Playing a lay-off for someone to shoot or pass one time should have a lighter touch to it. Playing a longer pass, especially one that needs to split two opposing players should have some nice zing to it. However, we still want our teammate to have the easiest time with the pass we give. Easiest time? That means, we as the passer need to consider what that next player will likely aim to achieve. Are they in the position to score and if so, what is the defensive shape around them? Usually if they have their back to goal and they are using their body well, we can take some weight off of the pass and make it easier for them to keep the ball under control. Another aspect is playing a ball in behind the defense for our teammate to run onto. Generally those are hit hard enough not to get cut out, but not too hard otherwise a smart and athletic goalkeeper will come off his line and snatch that sucker up.
2. Playing to the correct foot
Is our teammate we are passing to checking to the ball? Which side of their body is the closest defender on? Where is the sideline? Can they turn? Play forward? (lead them) Which is their dominant foot? So many things to think about on this one.
We should aim to play the ball to the foot furthest away from the closest defender to our teammate so they can use their body to protect the soccer ball. If they have no opponent nearby, then we can dictate they can turn not only with telling them "turn", but also by playing the ball to their back foot aka the foot furthest away from you. These little things are the difference between an efficient attack that leads to more scoring opportunities and a slow attack that allows the defense to get numbers behind the ball.
3. Considering the player you are passing to's pace and preferences
If you are passing to a player who has blazing speed, perhaps we want to play the ball in behind defenses and let them run onto it. If it is a slower soccer player with a lot of skill, we should look to play to feet. Maybe the teammate is great in the air and can flick a ball on or lay it off, or they are amazing at shielding the ball and can bring it down and combine; in that case we can take the risk of playing in the air. To a little guy like me, while I like the challenge of getting balls in the air, I do better with balls to the feet.
4. When to play a certain pass based on the game
Considering the shape of the opponent, the score, the time of the match, and momentum of the game are also very important aspects that go into passing. As a simple example, if the opponent is a 4-3-3, then we know, usually, there will be more space to play wide. Another example, if the outside backs are pushing forward more on one side, then we might be able to look to play early down that side and get some quick attacks going. So many things here and it really comes down the the specifics. That is why being an intelligent soccer player who is looking to solve problems on the pitch is important.
In the dying moments of the match, what we do with the ball depends on the scoreline. A. if we are up in the score we either we want to keep a lead by possessing in the opponent's half which is safer than keeping it in our own half. B. if we are down in the score we want to play more direct (not desperate long balls, but more forward passes) to create more chances to tie. C. If we are tied, than that will really depend on your team's strengths in attack and the defenses weaknesses.