5 on 4 slow break lacrosse play man up numbers advantage transition

5-on-4 Slow Break: The “Wheel”

Slow Breaks happen almost as often as Fast Breaks in any lacrosse game. Smart coaches practice this common game situation so all their players know how to move the ball and score those great transition goals that make lacrosse so exciting!

Lacrosse is the fastest game on two feet for a reason. Any bad pass, ground ball, or slick stick check can trigger a numbers break at the other end of the field. These full-field sprints to the goal are what bring the fans to their feet! Numbers-advantage goals like this are easier to score than settled 6-on-6 goals in our opinion. Coaches hope for these easy scoring opportunities all game. Don't let them go to waste!

Any decent high school or college team can get at least one Midfielder back on defense any time they lose the ball. Make sure your team does 5-on-4 Slow Break Drills just as much as 4-on-3 Fast Break Drills in practices, tryouts and pregame warm-ups.

It's called a "Slow Break" because the play tends to develop toward the goal more slowly than a Fast Break. It takes a little longer and a few more passes to find the open man with the best shot opportunity.

These numbers advantage situations don't last very long in games. You may only get a few seconds to cash in on these extra chances before the Defense can get back and recover!

We see many youth and high school teams that don't know how to "Rotate!" the Defense to cover the open man with the ball quickly enough in these temporary man-down situations. Move the ball to the open man faster than the Defense can rotate to score quality transition goals that your opponents won't even see coming!


We run this play most often down the right side of the field when looking at the goal (Goalie's top left) since most players are right-handed and most of the pass and shot opportunities are also right-handed.

5 on 4 slow break wheel transition lacrosse man up play

Figure 1.) First look is always to the goal! With two offensive Midfielders (Blue 4 and 5) coming down the field with the ball against one defensive Midfielder (Red 4), there is a 2-on-1 in the middle of the field. One of these two should be able to get open.

Blue 4 with the ball will threaten to go to the goal from the top corner of the the box, similar to a right-handed Alley Dodge.

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  • Make sure all your players know when they have a "Numbers!" advantage and can "Push!" the ball to the goal in practice so they know exactly what you mean when they hear the same calls in games.
  • Make sure all your players get to play both sides of the ball. Keep your Long-Pole Defenders and Long-Stick Midfielders in the play in these situations so they know what to do when they cause turnovers and pick up loose balls. Developing well-rounded athletes is one of the most important things you do as a coach!
  • Teach your players "how to play" instead of teaching "plays". The game doesn't follow a script every single time. The 5-on-4 is a realistic game situation with many different options that your players need to be familiar with. Teach them how it works and let them make it happen!
  • The best thing is that this 5-on-4 translates to basketball, box lacrosse, hockey, even indoor soccer! Help turn your players into star multi-sport athletes!


Let us know if you get some sweet transition goals out of your team after teaching them to understand this common game situation!