Sometimes, making a game-clinching play on defense can be just as satisfying as scoring the winning goal. While offense does steal a lot of defense’s thunder, you can’t win without good defense. With the help of Dignitas’ own Jack “ApparentlyJack” Benton, we’re going to discuss some ways to improve your defending in-game!
Challenging the Ball
We asked ApparentlyJack what he thinks the number one thing that separates a good defender from a bad defender is. Here’s what he had to say:
Patience on defense. It can be difficult to see when you have time and when you need to rush the ball, but in my eyes, a good defender is someone who has that balance. They know when to challenge and when not to. Being a little further back than you may think you should be is a good idea when it comes to finding that middle ground.
Knowing when and when not to challenge is super important when it comes to being an effective defender. If you recklessly dive in for the ball at the wrong time, your opponent will get a bead on you, and you’ll be way out of the play. If you’re too hesitant, your opponent will be able to move right by you. Like ApparentlyJack said, it’s all about finding the middle ground.
As you need to be patient and wait for the right situation, you’ll need to make sure your hands stay comfortable. We recommend the HyperX Clutch Wireless Gaming Controller for its comfortable, textured grips, so that you can stay alert and challenge the opponent at any time during the game.
In Rocket League, everything is very situational. But, generally speaking, there’s some things to look out for on a consistent basis.
Typically, challenge when you see that the opponent has a little bit of space between them and the ball. You kind of have to anticipate it and try to read what your opponent is going to do. For example, if they’re about to take a power shot, they might leave a little bit of space to get that ‘run up.’ That moment is when you want to challenge.
Another thing you can do is watch the ball’s position on your opponent’s car. Does it look like they have the ball in a spot where they can perform a pretty deadly flick? Hold off. Is the ball a little too forward and is looking like it’s going to roll on to the ground? Challenge. It’s all about waiting for a moment where the opponent is vulnerable, especially in lower to middle ranks where mistakes are more common.
A very important defensive mechanic to learn is shadow defending. This is where you drive in the same direction as your opponent, but ahead of them, biding your time for the right moment to make a play on the ball.
The reason shadow defending is so useful is because it gives you a wide variety of options. If you’re shadow defending and the opponent has the ball, you can get an angle on just about any shot that they have available to them. It also puts the opponent into a bit of an awkward position, because they know that you have a lot of angles covered. It might force them into a play they typically wouldn’t do.
Essentially, it’s you being your opponent’s shadow. Try to mimic their movements and anticipate their next one.
A clear itself is a pretty simple mechanic – you boom the ball away from your goal. However, there’s a bit more to it than that if you want to master it. Hitting the ball with intention behind it will help you a great deal.
There’s a couple of options you have. If you’re in a really tough position, you might have to clear it to them – that’s going to happen sometimes. But if you have the space and the boost, you can try to put the ball in a place where your teammate would be able to beat your opponent to it. You can also just put the ball into an awkward position for the opponent. Even if your opponents get the next touch, it will probably just come right back to your team.
As ApparentlyJack said, sometimes, you’re in a dire situation and just have to hit the ball somewhere – otherwise it’s ending up a goal. However, if it’s not extremely dire, clear the ball in an area that’s going to benefit your team the most. This comes from constantly scanning the field and knowing the situation before a shot comes in. You should know beforehand where your teammate is most likely to be, and where the opponents are least likely to be. This way, when the time comes to make that clear, you’ll be ready to put it in a beneficial spot.
Having the right gear for the job is just as important as having the right mindset. With the HyperX Clutch Wireless Gaming Controller, you don’t have to worry about imprecise inputs making a hash out of your best laid plans. Get reliable inputs, and comfortable grips help ensure that you won’t turn your clutch clearance into a howler.
Now that we’ve mentioned your standard clears, we also need to talk about the backboard. At the lower to middle ranks, sometimes this area gets abandoned on defense, but it’s such a lethal weapon for the attackers that it needs to be acknowledged.
If the ball does bounce off the backboard, it’s a lot harder to read for the defender on the ground. For the attacker, the ball is going to be right in front of them and it’s a lot easier to read it off the backboard for them.
The reason that backboard defense is so important is because backboard offense is so good. However, it’s pretty straightforward to defend, it’s just a matter of developing the habit. If the situation calls for it, drive up the wall and on to the backboard – especially if you already have a teammate covering the net. Not only will you shut down any potential backboard plays, but you’ll have a few options as well.
For one, you can slow the play down by catching the ball and dribbling it to safety, buying time for your teammates to get boost if need be. Additionally, you can boom it down the field very effectively from the backboard. You’re also less likely to get dunked from this position. This tactic is going to stop a lot of preventable goals.
Now that we’ve gone over some defensive mechanics, it’s time to talk about where your car should be. At the end of the day, you want to make sure you have as much covered as possible. In 1v1, shadow defending is your best friend. In 2v2, it’s great to have someone covering the net/backboard and someone challenging the ball. In 3v3, it’s all about figuring out what your opponents can do and reacting to it.
So, there’s a few options that the attackers have. They can pass to the midfield, they can go for a backboard hit, or they can shoot on target. You want to make sure all three of those things are covered. Have one person in net covering the shot, one person covering the midfield for the pass, and one person covering the backboard. The only issue is that the person on the ball will have a little bit of space. You have to decide what the most dangerous options are and make sure those are covered.
The reality is that no defensive structure in Rocket League is perfect. Like ApparentlyJack outlined, the attackers have more options than you have defenders – and that’s when everyone is actually in the right spot. The best thing you can do as a team is give yourself the best chance to prevent a goal. It all comes down to awareness.
You have to be aware of where your opponents are. You always have to be looking. Not just at the person on the ball, but where their teammates are going. If they’re communicating, the person on the ball is going to be telling their teammate where to go or vice versa. If you’re covering it, they probably aren’t going to go for it, so just having your car there can put a little bit of a mental block on the opponents.
Thanks to ApparentlyJack’s help, we’ve learned quite a bit about how to be the most efficient defender you can be. But what’s the best way to start improving?
Best way to practice is probably playing 1v1. I know it’s kind of the advice I always give, but in 1v1, you have a higher chance of being put into these positions. You’re going to have to defend a bunch of times. You can just practice that repetition more and more. Free play doesn’t really help with defending. There are training packs, but they aren’t always realistic, so you want to just throw yourself into those situations.
As intimidating and frustrating as 1v1 can be, ApparentlyJack is absolutely spot on. There’s no better way to improve than to test yourself often. The more exposure you have to defensive situations, the better!
Thank you for reading and best of luck with your defense!