A Coach Asks

I have to show a practical exercise next weekend, and I picked 2v1 Overlap as my topic.  What kind of exercises can I use to best show this?  I have a tactics book but I'm not sure which part applies, and I would like to build a practice I can use with my team.

Some Suggestions for 2v1 Overlap Training

First, two things you might want to narrow in on to make sure you are on track.

  1. 2v1 overlap is generally part of combination play and taught as a tactical topic, and instead of going from fundamental to game related to match conditions, you would take it from simple to complex, that is, no goals, one goal, two goals, full game. Perhaps you would want to double check your notes, ask around, or even contact the instructor to make sure that you have the same understanding. It is possible to teach this as a technical subject and to focus on the technical aspects, so the answer is very important.

  2. In the area of 2v1, there are about 6 well-recognized combinations that are trained, of which overlap is just one. Some of the others might include 
  • give and go,
  • wall pass,
  • double pass,
  • drop and chip or drop and through,
  • takeover,
  • heel pass or scissors run

Coaching Points for 2v1 Overlap Training

  1. For players attacking in the same direction, one with the ball: there is a visual cue that the overlap runner can use to decide when to start the overlap. When the player with the ball dribbles or runs with the ball into the overlap player's space, it's time for the overlap player to make a bending run behind the ball into space left behind by the player with the ball.

  2. Overlaps take plenty of space - the space involved has to be broad enough to prevent one defender from covering the first attacker and the overlap runner. (During your practical session, you may notice players making overlap runs so close to the ball that they players could hold hands - not good. Stop the session and make a correction when you see it.)

  3. Every pass deserves an overlap - in many parts of your exercise and in your final game, you can add a requirement that each player must make a bending or overlap run after every pass.

  4. The overlap runner, after going in behind the ball and out to the wing, perhaps level with the ball, must absolutely get hips turned to face the ball so that the overlap runner can receive and play the ball on the front foot in one touch. To do this, the overlap runner must make the initial overlap run normally but then start backing out with an open body shape, open to the ball, after getting perhaps 10-12 yards away from the ball.

  5. The overlap runner should look for the ball. Small point, but a lot of overlap runners will show their tail lights to the ball, making it hard for the passer to find a front foot to pass to, and making eye contact impossible.

  6. Player with ball can create natural situations for overlap by dribbling at the second attacker's defender. If two of us are attacking and I have the ball, I will sometimes dribble at your defender. This takes my defender and your defender into the same space, creating space behind me that you can run to. My pass to you has to reach your FRONT FOOT.

2v1 Overlap Technical Progression

There are many ways to present this topic as a technical progression, here's just one simple example. 


  1. Groups of two players and one ball each. Stationary players face each other 7 yards apart. Player with ball makes a pass to other player's feet, receives ball back on first touch, starts dribbling slowly into other player's space. Other player receives and returns pass, then makes overlap run behind passer, out to wing. After space is opened up, passer plays diagonal ball onto runner's front foot.

  2. Groups of two players, each group with one ball. Players jog forward toward goal-line, 10 yards apart. Player with ball starts dribbling toward space in front of runner, where an opponent marking the runner would be backing up. As the dribbler turns in to dribble runner's imaginary defender, runner makes overlap run, accelerating from previous jog. Passer cuts ball slightly, makes strong diagonal pass to runner's front foot.

Match related

  1. Play 3 teams of two, one ball, in a 15 x 15 (square) space. Make a cone goal on each edge of the grid. Each team tries to score by accomplishing an overlap run and pass before shooting. The two teams (four players) who don't have the ball are defenders. A team that loses the ball goes to defense. Adjust your exercise: If no overlap passing is happening, take off one team and play 2v2 with the third team coming on with the next ball after a goal is scored (scoring team comes off to rest).

Match condition

  1. Play 4v4 to two goals and require an overlap pass before the team with the ball can shoot.

2v1 Overlap Tactical Progression

Just for fun, here's your topic as a tactical progression.

  1. Two players with one ball in space pass and overlap.

  2. Two players as center mids v one defender in midfield going to a large cone goal.

  3. Add a central defender for the attacking side, give that player a supply of balls to start the exercise. Let the defender join the attack against the single defender.

  4. Add wing midfielders for the attacking side and a second defender for the opponents, all still going to one goal with keeper. Have the central defender play balls into the wing. Ask the wing to dribble into the center midfielder's space. The center mid should read this cue and overlap the wing mid, overlapping into space on the wing for a diagonal pass after the overlap run.

  5. Add a third defender, and put down two cone goals at the half-way line to allow the defenders to counterattack and score. At this point you have 2 center mids + 2 wing mids + central defender v 3 defenders + 1 keeper.

  6. Add two more players to the original defending side, add a keeper to the original attacking side. Play 5 v 5 to goals with keepers, encourage overlaps where you see them.
For more ideas, visit Bruce Brownlee.com Soccer Coaching Notes