The aim of the present study was to analyze the behavior of players in a standard small-sided game (SSG) according to the role played (offensive (OF), defensive (DF), and wildcard (W)) and its relationship with physical demands (PHYD), technical performance (TP), and internal load (RPE). A total of 24 young highly trained male soccer players (under 16: n = 12; under 19: n = 12) participated. During the SSG, the players alternated the three roles (OF, DF, and W). The duration of each repetition was 4 min with a passive rest of 3 min between them. Furthermore, it emphasized the high demand in all defensive parameters. In addition, DF roles showed higher values in PHYD and RPE, followed by the OF roles, and finally by the W roles. A complementary, positive moderate correlation was found between PHYD and RPE in the U16 dataset (r = 0.45, p < 0.006). Very large positive correlations were also found between PHYD and RPE in the U19 and merged dataset (r = 0.78, p < 0.001 and r = 0.46, p < 0.63, respectively). This information could be useful for coaches in order to structure the roles in SSGs and control training load.
Keywords: drill-based games; external load; football; performance; task constraints; youth soccer.