Why don't you pull your goal keep when down by 1 in soccer?

I’m new to soccer, but I can’t figure out why a team down by one with a few minutes to play wouldn’t pull out the goal keeper to get an extra guy trying to score. This is often done in ice hockey.

Now, I’m not that drunk guy down at your local wings eatery who knows what the coach ought to do in any given sports situation, so I am looking for an expert to tell me why this isn’t done in soccer.

(Perhaps it is, but a limited sample of Europeans I’ve polled have never heard of such a thing)

It might be against the offside rule, but since nobody understands that, I can’t say for sure.

Boy from Mars says this can happen (usually only in the last couple of minutes of the game) - apparently a Paraguyan national side goalie was fond of doing this and scored from corner shots etc. But would generally not happen much as it can take very little to turn the ball around and then you have an undefended goal, noting that only the designated goalie can touch the ball with their hands.

In the Champions league you have a big disincentive from going from1 down to 2 down, as goals scored away from home are doubled in value - so you’d want to try to minimise the other team from scoring again.

But theoretically there’s nothing to stop him playing as everyone else.

You don’t really see the defenders getting commited to the action around the goal either. I think it is generally just too risky to commit your defense. Once the ball is behind them it is difficult to get back in to a good defensive position.

Each team only has 3 substitutions in a game – and even if you have one left, a substitution takes (at this point inth the game, very “expensive”) time. You can’t just pull a player at any given time, like in Hockey. So it isn’t really a viable alternative to substitue an offensive player for the goal keeper, in those last few moments.

That said, in “all or nothing” situations it has become far more common in recent years for the goalie to join the offense on the last few posessions in the game, pretty much as you suggested. Especially on set pieces, since goal keepers tend to be tall, which is an advantage in these situations.

A team that tried this when 1-0 down would be much more likely to end up 2-0 down than to equalise at 1-1.

An extra forward or midfielder isn’t a huge advantage. If a player gets sent off, leaving his side playing 10 men against 11, it’s not uncommon for the side with 10 men to hang on for a long time without conceding a goal. They can even go on the attack from time to time.

On the other hand, playing without a goalie is a major handicap - as has been pointed out above, only the designated goalkeeper can handle the ball. Look at the number of times the goalie foils an attack by grabbing the ball before the opposing forward can get to it.

The risks outweigh the benefits.

The benefit of pulling the goaltender in hockey is not really comparable at all to doing the same thing in soccer. The games are structured differently enough that tis strategy, which constitutes fairly standard practice in hockey, would be extremely unlikely to have any real effect in soccer.

First of all, adding another attacker to a 10-man field unit is, merely going by percentages, about half as useful as adding another attacker to a 5-man field unit. Furthermore, as others have stated, the ease or difficulty of scoring in soccer is not necessarily related merely to the number of players you push into the attacking zone. Sure, having three men attacking in the box is more likely to produce a goal than have one, but there comes a point when adding more people does’t make things easier. In fact, with too many men forward it’s easily possible for attackers to get in each other’s way.

Another reason it’s difficult is that, in soccer, no matter how many men you have forward, you are still constantly vulnerable to the offside trap. And if you’re called offside, your attacking raid ends immediately. This isn’t the case in hockey, where the offside marker is a fixed line rather than a moving plane. As long as the puck crosses the blue line first, everyone who follows it into the offensive zone is onside for the rest of the play, and there’s no possibility of an offside call until the puck crosses the blue line again. In soccer, on the other hand, an offside call is virtualy always a possibility, even right down in the offensive zone.

Also, the range of possible scoring shots in hockey is such that an extra attacker can be a big help. In hockey, it really helps just to get as many men as possible around the net. Not only does this obscure the goaltender’s view, but the slightest deflection from a stick or skate can turn a shot past the goalie into the net. This type of serendipitous deflection is much less common in soccer, and simply pouring men forward is not really the answer.

Having said all that, i do remember once seeing a soccer goalkeeper up in the opposition penalty area attempting to score. It was some years ago (mid-1990s?), and Manchester United were playing a Cup tie of some sort. In the last few minutes, they got a corner or free kick, and every player on the team, including goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, was up front trying to score. But i think Schmeichel was there not just because he was an extra player, but because, at about 6’4", he was one of the tallest men on the field, and thus had a decent chance of getting a head to the cross. In the end, Man. U. failed to score.

It’s increasingly common in the UK in the final seconds of “all-or-nothing” games - usually cup knockout competitions, or the final league match of a season.

You may well see it in the World Cup if England are 1-0 down with 91 mins played.

There are pros and cons to it:


  • an extra player is an extra player… more numbers equals more chances to score

  • most teams have pre-arranged defensive duties for set pieces (ie. each defender takes charge of one attacker)… with the goalie up there’s sometimes confusion over who’s marking him, which can be enough to distract the defence into letting an outfield player slip free

  • nothing to lose so why not?


  • goalies ain’t the best outfield players, so can waste gilt-edged chances that would have been put away by a standard player

  • they can get in the way of their own team

  • their own goal is unattended, so if the defence can clear the ball it’s an open net

I think we need to establish what is meant by “pull” your goalkeeper.

I understood this to mean substituting him with an outfield player. Others in this thread are talking about just using the goalie as an extra outfield player.

Which is it? It makes a difference if you still have someone on the team who can handle the ball in defence.

I would have thought that the relative sizes of the goals are also a factor. The hockey goal isn’t very wide, and in a pinch a defence man can cover a fair bit of the goal just by standing there. That’s not the case in soccer, when the goal is so big, and as others have commented, using one’s hands is a key part of defending the goal.

Any player on a team is allowed to play in goal… however, the goalie MUST wear a different coloured shirt to his team-mates.

So Brasil (for example) could take off Dida, give his shirt to Ronaldo and just let Ronaldo play up front as normal.

Ronaldo would still be permitted to pick the ball up in his own area, but is also free (as indeed is any goalie) to head upfield.

In fact, it sometimes happens that a team has used all 3 substitutes and the goalie gets a red card. Usually a defender will take over the gloves and become the goalkeeper, but it could also be a forward.

addendum: what I’m not 100% sure of is whether a team can play without a keeper at all - ie. 11 x outfiled players - will ask around the office and see what the received wisdom is!

I guess that it makes no difference… just a separate colour for the shirt, but whether you want to actually stay in goal is up to you.

If this is the case, then why doesn’t the goalie pick up the ball, run across the field with it, and throw it into the opponent’s net?

Because he can only do so within his own penalty area.

Because then it would be Rugby, not soccer. :wink:


The goalkeeper is simply a player that is designated as such. If a team wants they can have the goalkeeper play all the way forward. He’ll still be the only one legally able to use his hands in the defending penalty area.


There are no risks if you’re about to lose in a knockout round. Any way you look at it you’re going home without a win, be it by one goal or two. This gives you that tiny bit of an edge.

A match I saw on TV 30 years ago featured a serious injury to a goalie. He was able to get to his feet but was badly hobbled. His team had no substitutions left. It did less harm to leave him in goal and allow the team to have ten fit outfield players - until a penalty kick was awarded. Obviously the poor goalkeeper had no chance of saving it, as he could barely limp around.

At this point there was a conference with the referee and the 'keeper swapped shirts with one of the fullbacks, who took over in goal, proceeded to save the penalty, then swapped shirts back again.
A 'keeper leaving his goal in an attempt to score in the dying minutes of a game led last season to a player in the Premiership scoring from his own half - he received the ball while the goalie was still rushing back, gave it a big wallop from more than fifty yards, and stuck it into the unattended net. Someone happened to have a fair-sized bet resting on this unlikely occurrence, and got a nice payoff.

As has been pointed out, “pulling the goalie” in hockey entails actually making a substitution - replacing the guy with the big leg pads with a “skater.” This substitution is often made while the puck is live, which is a freedom peculiar to hockey among sports I’m familiar with.

In soccer, the analogous tactic does not (typically) involve a substitution, due to that sport’s dramatically different rules concerning such. Rather than leaving the field, the goalkeeper simply begins acting like an ordinary player; there’s nothing in the rules prohibiting this, and the extra equipment he wears doesn’t seriously impede it (as a hockey goalie’s does). When a goalkeeper is outside of his own penalty area, he’s subject to the same restrictions on hand/arm use as the other ten guys on his team.

So the question really seems to be why leaving one’s net temporarily open to devote an extra player to the attack is standard practice in desperate hockey situations, but doesn’t seem to be in soccer.

I think mhendo very eloquently covered just about everything that popped into my mind, and several good points that hadn’t. The only other thing I can think of is that it tends to be easier to remain on the attack in hockey than in soccer. Especially when you have a one-skater advantage, it’s not uncommon for a hockey team to retain possession of the puck and keep it in the attacking zone for some time, while getting in several shot attempts. The chances of scoring a goal vs. losing the puck and giving up a potshot at your own open net are such that the risk is justifiable.

In soccer, it seems a bit different. You don’t normally see a soccer team possessing the ball for an extended time in the “attacking zone” (defined vaguely) like you do in hockey; they are virtually certain to lose possession of the ball at some point, even if only briefly. While in ordinary situations they might be able to grab the ball back in the midfield area, with an empty net they might get hit with a long shot before getting the chance.

This isn’t to say that teams never find reasons to bring their goalkeepers forward on the attack; it does happen, as others have pointed out. But leaving an open net carries different risk and reward weights in soccer than it does in hockey, often leading to different decisions on goalie-pulling.

1998-9 season, Carlisle escaped relegation through a goalkeeper scoring from a corner, in the last seconds of the final match.