Abby Wambach's on-field presence must be constantly monitored by her opponents. During the 2011 FIFA World Cup, she broke loose for four goals, earning the Bronze Boot, an award recognizing the tournament's third highest scorer.
Wambach is an impressive physical force on the field, but it is her finely-tuned skills that elevate her play to elite status. To improve her ball handling in close quarters, she regularly practices with drills that simulate game situations. She also improves her conditioning so that she can play at her peak level throughout an entire match.
The four soccer skill drills below helped Wambach become dominant on the pitch.
Stepover Delay Pass
- Dribble ball toward teammate from 10 yards away
- Just before reaching teammate, perform stepover, eluding imaginary defender, and set ball for teammate
Reps: 4 each foot
Benefits: Ability to freeze defender while getting ball to teammate
Ryan: One of the most important things for young soccer players is being comfortable with the ball by getting touches through passing, receiving and dribbling. This drill helps our players buy a little time so a teammate can come and get the ball. Little moves (on top of the ball) will freeze the defender.
7v7 in Closed Space
- Scrimmage 7v7 with three neutral players in 10x10 yard space
- Receive and pass ball quickly with one or two touches
Duration: 5-15 minutes
Benefits: Quick passing and receiving ability
Ryan: We want to learn to play in tight spaces, because many upcoming opponents play with so many people around the ball. We have our players play with only one or two touches so they get used to keeping the ball moving quickly with people around.
1v1 Off Chip Pass
- From 30 yards out, begin dribbling ball toward goal
- Pass ball to teammate who's facing you at top of box
- Receive quick chip pass back from teammate and attempt shot on goal or dribble past goalkeeper
Benefits: Finishing ability
Ryan: We're likely to get some one-on-one situations like this, so we want our forwards to be comfortable with them. The idea is to try to play the ball under the keeper. The hardest spot for a keeper to make a save is right underneath her, so try to get it under her early.
- Perform continuous full-field scrimmage for set amount of time
Duration: 20 minutes
Benefits: Fitness and strategy
Ryan: We use this to work on how we plan to pressure an upcoming opponent when they have the ball, and to focus on areas in their defensive system we think we can attack. A huge fitness benefit [results] from the fact that we're not stopping and restarting all the time.
Check out the videos above to see the drills demonstrated.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock