The Basic Defensive FormationA basic defense formation is just a basic defensive position to place your men. It is where you have two of your men paired up together to defend as much of the goal as possible.
A basic defensive formation
Usually, the front man is angled backwards while the back man is angled forward (See section on man position in the section called Catching). Not everyone uses this formation, but I have noticed that this formation is commonly used by most players. It is not uncommon to see the front man angled forward. I have found that by doing this, it has somewhat of a psychological affect on the shooter especially when the shooter is struggling or having a hard time scoring. You want to maximize the distance between the two men, that is, you want to have the gap as wide as possible but not wide enough to allow the ball to pass. This is so that you can maximize the total blocking area of both men. The wider the blocking area of your men then the less goal is exposed. Keep in mind that there is no way you can cover the total area of the goal, therefore the idea is to create the illusion that you are doing just that.
ideal distance bad distance
Notice that the men are as far apart as possible without allowing the ball to pass between them. You only need to use just a tiny portion of the man's feet to stop or to deflect the ball. As a result you can maximize the blocking area of your men. However, if your men are too far apart, then the ball will pass between them. Sometimes you can do this and get away with it because it goes undetected. If you are just learning how to play I would not recommend doing this until you get a feel for playing defense. Now we are ready to begin learning how to play defense. I will start with what I believe to be the toughest shot to block, the pull shot.
I believe the pull shot is probably the most difficult shot to defend against. Especially if you are playing against someone who knows how to use it to its fullest potential. The pull shot is easy to set up and easy to control as well. A good player merely setups, scans the defense, and then delivers the ball into the open hole. This is why I believe the pull shot can be a goalie's nightmare. Over the years I have develop three types of defenses which I have found to be very useful at defending against the pull shot. I have even gone as far as naming these defenses, but first, let start with the basic way to defend against a pull shot.
Defending Against the Pull Shot
I have notice that when beginners attempt to block pull shots they either use a racing defense or a shake defense. These type of defenses may work fine against another beginner, but not against a player who knows how to use a pull. The racing defense is useless because you do not know exactly when the shooter is going to shot. Thus, you are having to watch and wait to see when the shooter is going to pull. A good pull shot shooter usually has so much power and control that he or she can have the ball in the hole before you can blink an eye. A shake defense is where the goalie wiggles or shakes the men around hoping to block the shot attempt by chance. This is a complete waste of time because someone who knows what they are doing will either go straight in, split, or go long. Now I will show you what I do to block the deadly pull shot.
First, you want to have your goalie set (a pair of men together) almost directly in front of the ball. Ideally, there should be only a tiny portion of one of the men's feet in front of the ball. Again this is to maximize the blocking area of your men. Remember to use the ideal distance between your men in the basic defensive formation.
The front man should be where only a portion of his feet are in front of the ball. By doing this you maximize the blocking area of your men. Another good thing about this is that the shooter will get the illusion that the straight-in is there and squander away a scoring opportunity by trying to slip one pass you. That! is what you want to do. You want to take away every scoring opportunity and you do that by dictating and controlling the game. In other words you have to make the shooter do what you want and not what he or she wants to do.
This defensive method is more effective against a short range pull shot, like for instance the short or split. However against a long pull this method would not be ideal. The reason being is that from the shooter's point of view, he or she sees a wide opened corner, especially if he or she can do an angle pull.
good for short range but not for longs
From a shooter's point of view a defense like this looks way too appealing. So I recommend using the back man to cover the straight-in and using the front man to cover long. In other words reverse your men.
ideal for long and short range
This type of defensive method is more effective for both long and short range. First, it takes away that appealing wide-open corner that the shooter sees in the other method. The shot is still there but now it requires a lot more skill to make it. Instead of an easy angle shot, now the shooter has to go way around the front man. The scoring percentage drops way down. Even though this defensive method may be better than the other one, it still is not without weakness. The ever-so-deadly "deadman" pull is still open, and there is an angle split that can be made.
Nonetheless, it will require someone with a lot of foosball experience to capitalize on this defensive method at every opportunity. Unfortunately, those are the people you have beat in order to be number one. There are some adjustments you can do to help increase your blocking percentage. One way is to widen the distance between the men to cover more area, another way is to have the front man's feet pointing forward in order to reduce the angle on the long pull. Now you may ask. What if you make these adjustments then won't the shooter make the same adjustment? The answer is yes, if the shooter is well discipline and skilled. However most players lack the discipline and skill to play championship type foosball. Being able to make adjustments and to create illusions is what will make the difference, and this is where psychology is implemented. Now I will attempt to explain how I use psychology and the preceding defensive formations to block the deadly pull shot.
The first thing I do is to place my defensive set to cover the short range pull (shorts & splits). I do this while the shooter is setting up to do a pull shot. During this time, I am watching to see how the shooter is positioning the ball.
this is the formation I use while to shooter is preparing to do a pull shot.
If the shooter set the ball slightly forward, then he or she is probably thinking of either going short, doing angle long, or doing a split. The shooter could go long range, however, it is a lot harder to control the ball that well when the ball is in the forward position. If the shooter places the ball in the back position (very common), then ball will be in a ideal position to go just about anywhere.
Then when I see that the shooter is ready to do a pull shot, I slowly and hopefully unnoticeably move the back man over to the unprotected area. While the whole time I am doing this I am watching the shooter's eyes and hands. This is what I call the Flex Defense. The concept is to flex your men around unnoticeably in a timely manner. If you flex unnoticed then the shooter will think that you are still in the same place as you were when the shooter was setting up the ball. Also, it is a good idea to leave your men in that position you have just flexed to for a few seconds. This is so if the shooter does notice a change in the defense, then he or she has to change their plan of attack, thus, disrupting the shooter's shooting game. Again, that is what you want to do. It is very important that you take away the shooter's rhyme and momentum. The down side to the flex is that not all foosers fall for it. Some foosers are smart enough to see that you have move your back man and now the straight in is open. So the real trick is timing and knowing when to use it and that comes with lots of playing time at the goalie position.
I flex the defense so the shooter gets a different look
Knowing when he or she is going to pull is the tricky part, so you must put yourself in the shooter's place. You must know how your opponent thinks. Once you stop your opponent, then the pressure to perform better is elevated. So the sooner you block your opponents and start controlling them, then the easier your defending job becomes.
I look at the shooter's eyes and at the ball as it is being place in position. By doing this I can determine how good and what type of a shooter my opponent is. For instance, there is the type of shooter who can eye a defense and set the ball up simultaneously (this is done by most good players). This type of shooter is a fox type player, who tries to strike quickly and accurately. Therefore, you must always be on your guard when playing against this type of player. When I play against a player like this, I use what I call the "Flex" or "sucker" defense. The reason for this is that this type of shooter is looking for an opportunity to score quickly and is scanning the defense while setting up the ball. With these types of defenses I create what appears to be open holes throughout my defense. The idea is to get the eager shooter to shoot into what appears to be an opening in the defense.
More often than not, an eager fox-type shooter will go for the "Sucker Dee" (another name for the sucker defense). Try it. You will be surprise how often it works. I have literally humiliated dozens of pull shooter who think they can be sly and sneak one in only to find out that they have just been suckered. Hence the name "Sucker Dee". The name may sound stupid but it works. Against an inexperience or an eager shooter the "Sucker Dee" or "Flex Defense" will have a fairly good chance of working. However, if these types of defenses work so well, then why is it that nobody uses them?
I have often watched others play defense and asked myself why they don't use defensive techniques like mine. I have even told players to try using a "flex" or "sucker" defense, but they just look at me as if I were crazy. I believe the reason why I get some strange reactions from people is that they cannot conceive the idea of leaving a straight-in shot wide open.
The "flex" or "sucker" defense may sometimes require the straight-in be left open
Sure, I guess it does look stupid giving the opponent an easy score on a silver platter and even more so if the shot goes in. But with lots of practice and good experience a player will learn when to use these type of defenses and who to use them on. Which brings me to my next point of discussion. Who do you use these types defenses on and how does one determine when to implement such defenses?
As I mention before, The ideal situation to implement the "sucker" or "flex" defense is when you are playing against inexperience, overly aggressive, or fox-type shooters. However, what if you are playing against someone like John Smith? Someone, who is very discipline, patient, well experience, and methodical. Would these type of defenses do well against a player with these type of attributes?
Would the "flex" or "sucker" defense do well against a skilled pull shooter like John Smith? Probably not. Mainly because players like John Smith are patient and very skillful when it comes to doing pull shots. They usually take their time. They set the ball up just the way they want it and then they carefully look to see what is there. If they see that you have flexed, they will know you are trying to get them to play into your hand. They will wait til you flex back to the previous spot and then shoot long. A good thing to do is to keep flexing and shifting your defense. Keep showing them a different look and make each look look difficult each time.
Against someone like John Smith there is really little you can do to stop him because he is very patient and he will only shoot when he is confident that the shot is there. Only with lots of patience and practice will you be fully able to stop pull shooters like John Smith. Again, these defensive techniques I have developed over the years are not the best way to stop a pull shot, but I believe they are good techniques to add to ones defensive strategy. And always remember that when playing against skilled players to use psychology. Even if it has little effect every little helps in a hopeless situation.