Clearing in soccer is the process of getting the ball out of the defensive third of the field into the neutral and offensive third. When on defense, your players should be working to get the ball out as quickly as possible; they do not want to waste time with footwork or back passing in a pressure-level situation. The defensive ‘clear’ is the first step in the transition from defense to offense on the field, and is important to set the tempo and direction of the ball.
In simplest language, a clear is a ‘big kick’ that gets the ball up and out of the defensive area. However, a successful clear does more than get the ball out of the defensive area. It also can eliminate a lot of retrograde movement by the offensive players and can begin an offensive attack. Your defenders should be taught that there are three types of clears:
- The Haphazard clear: Occurs in the highest-pressure situation when there is no time to direct the ball on its way out—this clear just seeks to get the ball away from the goal at any cost.
- The Sidelines clear: Occurs when the defenders don’t have time enough to begin executing an offensive maneuver through the clear, but don’t want to send it to the opponent by mistake. Sending the ball to the sidelines and out-of-bounds is a way to slow the ball down and force the opponent to embark on a new strategy, although the opponent does retain possession.
- The Offensive Clear: This clear is ideal and will spark offensive runs. The ball is sent to an offensive player on the same team and an offensive play results from the clear.
As with any soccer strategy, if your players have solid technique and a good grasp of ball basics, they will be better equipped to take an offensive clear each time they are working on defense. A good defender has good one-on-one skills that allow him to outmaneuver his opponent, set up the ball, and send it on his own ‘agenda’ rather than feeling rushed and unable to use strategy.