Soccer Tips: Forward Play Around the Penalty Area

Learn how to put your best foot forward with these tips on forward play in and around the penalty box.

In soccer, forwards are the players closest to the opposing team’s net. This means they frequently play in and around the penalty box.

Not only are offensive players driving toward this area, but the defense is also dropping back deep to defend the goal. This can cause the field to become very condensed, leaving little room for open passes.

“Finding that space is often difficult for young players,” says Division I Women’s Head Soccer Coach Randy Waldrum.

To help players find open space in the penalty box, Waldrum shares his tips on two different methods for avoiding defenders.


The key for forwards is to think about pulling away from the defender who is marking them by trying to get on their weakside shoulder. Doing so will help keep the defender from turning to see you and the ball at the same time.

Imagine your teammate is passing you the ball. You will then pull away on the weakside shoulder of the defender to get on a half-turn and create space between the two of you. Let your teammate play the ball into you and take a first touch that’s going to take you away from the defender and toward the goal.


The second option for finding space in and around the penalty area is to allow the ball to be played into space, rather than your feet. As you did in the first option, you will pull away from the defender and get on their weakside shoulder.

Wait for your teammate to play the ball into the space on the defender’s opposite side. From there, you can run in behind the defender and catch them unbalanced so that you can go to the goal.

While learning how to find open space can be a difficult task for young forwards playing around the penalty box, these tips can help you avoid being boxed in by defenders.

For more tips on putting your team on the scoreboard, check out this guide on the fundamentals of penalty kicks.