How to Master 1v1 Domination in Soccer

Written by VersusFri Dec 09 2022
How to Master 1v1 Domination in Soccer

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To be successful, every soccer player must learn how to keep the ball while outmaneuvering their opponents in a 1v1 situation. Learn form David Copeland-Smith on how to master your 1v1 soccer drills.

David Copeland-Smith, of Beast Mode Soccer, lays out how to dominate 1v1’s from any position on the field

To be successful, every soccer player must learn how to keep the ball while outmaneuvering their opponents in a 1v1 situation.

The reason is obvious for midfielders and forwards. Without advanced 1v1 skills—players in these positions will have no chance of running an effective offensive play or getting a good shot at goal.

As for defenders, stopping the attack is only the first part of their role. After regaining possession, a back is responsible for building the attack for their team, which often involves winning a 1v1 to distribute the ball further up the field.

Even soccer goalkeepers should learn to master and win their 1v1s. At times, a keeper is forced to play the ball from the ground in close quarters. And any hesitation at this moment is likely to cost their team dearly - just look at the recent World Cup for proof of that!

Contrary to popular belief, the most effective way to beat your defender in any of these situations isn’t to have better tricks and complicated fakes.

In most cases, the soccer players who consistently dominate 1v1’s, are those who have taken the time to understand what’s actually going on in a head to head play, then mastered some simple techniques to come out on top.

To take you through an exclusive lesson covering everything you need to know to up your 1v1 game, we’ve got none other than world renowned technical coach, David Copeland-Smith.

Recognized as a leading figure in individual technical development, David moved from England to the US in 2005. And after several years of coaching high school soccer, he switched to focus on his true passion—individual training.

For articles like this and tons of other exclusive video content, make sure to visit and sign up to gain access today. 

Building the Next Generation of Winners

Copeland-Smith created Beast Mode Soccer in 2010, as a training system to help guide the technical development of soccer players of all levels. Mindset has always been a core component of the Beast Mode program, which aims to instill a proactive, progressive mentality of self-reliance and personal accountability. 

David’s training system has been used by professional players and clubs all over the world. He is particularly active with many prominent players from the US Women’s National Team, having been involved in the training of no less than 13 of the players from the squad that won the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

In partnership with the rest of the superstars on our Soccer Roster, David has been sharing his expertise through a series of exclusive video training sessions on the Versus app.  

To give you an idea of what’s available through a subscription, we’ve released free articles summarizing two of his mindset videos: How to Build Mental Toughness and Developing an Elite Mindset.

If you want access to the rest of the Copeland-Smith training series. Along with a ton of exclusive videos from US Women’s soccer stars, like Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris, and Kelly O’Hara. All you need to do is choose a plan, download the Versus app, and start learning. 

But a subscription to Versus includes much more than just videos. Our soccer team alone has cataloged answers to over 800 questions spanning 30 topics, which you can access instantly through our advanced conversational AI-based technology.

While you consider your options, let’s take a look at the main points covered in David’s training session on how to master 1v1 domination in soccer.

It’s All About Space

David starts the video by stating,

“Most people are going to tell you that 1v1 domination is about tricks and flicks. When in all actuality it's about two things: Spatial awareness and spatial exploitation.”

Spatial awareness is knowing where your box is in space in relation to objects or other people. It’s having the ball with a player in front of you with no options on, then utilizing your awareness to find a space to move to. In a 1v1,

“My awareness tells me there’s a pocket of space I need to get to,” states Copeland-Smith.

Spatial exploitation is the ability to use that space to your advantage.

“That’s where your moves come into play,” explains David. “That is where you’re going to try to unbalance the player you’re up against. And as soon as they’re unbalanced—exploit that space.”

In terms of the moves you use to outmaneuver your opponent, David stresses the point that simpler is better.

“All I want you to do is pick two or three 1v1 moves that you want to absolutely master.”

Before you grab a ball and head out to practice, however, it’s time for some homework.

Study the Pro’s

“One way you can really turbocharge your awareness is by watching a lot of soccer,” David suggests. But he has some specific instructions for how to go about this.

“When you’re watching, I want you to turn your phone off because it’s a distraction,” urges Copeland-Smith. “And then I want you to watch professional soccer players who play your position to see what they do.” 

“Take note of what makes them special,” he suggests. “What types of passes do they make? What types of moves do they do in their 1v1’s.”

To give you a heads up of what you will find—

“I guarantee it’s very, very simple,” states David

“Sometimes it’s just a change of pace. They know they’re faster than another player, so they just beat them with their pace.”

As you get more used to this focused way of watching film, pause soccer games to predict what the players will do.

“I want you to get to the stage where you’re pausing the game every few seconds,” explains David. “Because I want you to anticipate and predict what a player is going to do.”

“If you look at world-class players like Leo Messi and Marta—all they do is simple cuts, shoulder drops, and body fakes. But they’re masters at exploiting space.”

Once you understand the fundamentals of 1v1 domination, it’s time to put what you’ve learned into practice.

The 1v1 Diamond Drill

Copeland-Smith has a simple diamond drill to help you work on 1v1 skills.

To set up, place 4 cones in a diamond pattern about 3 feet apart. 

Then, put one cone about 8 yards on either side of the diamond.

The final setup will look like this.

The diamond needs to be adjusted depending on the age of the player (usually, it will be larger for older adults). 

When adjusting the 1v1 diamond, think in terms of lunge patterns. The diamond is simulating the defender in a 1v1 scenario, so the cones should be about the distance of your opponent’s lunge.

“That’s very important,” states David. “Because that’s how far your touch has to go around them.”

To complete one repetition of the 1v1 Diamond Drill:

  1. Start at one of the far cones and dribble the ball toward the diamond.
  1. About halfway to the diamond, perform your move to fake out your opponent and move into open space, separating from your defender.

In step 2, be aware of:

  • Timing: In particular, how far and fast your opponent might come out to you
  • Moves: Start by practicing two or three basic fakes, one at a time—such as a shoulder drop, body fake, or inside/outside snake.
  • Space: The goal is to move into space after your fake, separating from your opponent by pushing the ball a few yards away.

  1. Take the ball around the diamond (your defender).

Don’t let your angle go out too wide after separating. Cut back in behind the diamond and keep moving forward.

  1. Continue to the cone on the far side and begin another rep.

Confidence is a huge part of winning your 1v1 challenge...

“You dominate people because you’ve got the confidence.”  

The main goal of this drill is to become confident enough with some simple techniques that you can use without hesitation in games.


Simplicity Is Key

Overall, 1v1 domination is about keeping a cool head, while being aware of the space around you and your opponent. Spatial awareness and spatial exploitation are vital. 

To win a 1v1, you need to off-balance your opponent with a convincing fake, then separate by quickly and confidently moving the ball into space.

To get better at 1v1 domination,

“I want you to watch professional soccer,” David states. “Start to anticipate what players in your position are doing and how their awareness affects the game.” 

“In 1v1 movements, it’s not about show and a highlight reel,” urges Copeland-Smith. “It’s literally about getting from one space to another and keeping the ball for your team.”

“Remember—simplicity is key. It’s all about picking two or three movements to absolutely master.” 

Once you understand space and have decided on the fakes you will be practicing, run through David’s Copeland-Smith’s 1v1 Diamond Drill regularly. This will ensure that you can confidently execute your 1v1 moves without hesitation, giving you the skills to consistently dominate in head to head plays.

Keys to 1v1 Domination

  • Spatial awareness
  • Spatial exploitation
  • Keep moves simple
  • Learn by watching others

To watch David Copeland-Smith’s exclusive training video on mastering 1v1 domination in soccer—simply select a plan, download the Versus app, and start learning.

If you want to go deeper on how to master the 1v1 in soccer, and what it takes to have a winning mindset, head over to Versus and check out our Game Plans. Any of our packages will get you access to our lessons, plus tons of other training sessions, interactive content, and more.

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