Goalkeeping in Rocket League: Become the Anchor That Your Teammates Need
Mon 11th Mar 2019 - 8:49pm
There is a famous saying that originated in American Football which goes, “A great offence will win you games, but a great defence will win you championships”. This is the case with many sports across the world and it can equally apply to Rocket League as well. There are many aspects to defending, or goalkeeping, in Rocket League and this guide will tell you how to become the best defender you can be.
One of the most important aspects of defending is how you transition from attack into defence and this is easily done with a solid rotational strategy. But when you’re playing with random teammates, this can be a little more difficult and your teammates will often be neglecting their defensive duties. It must fall upon you to be that rock at the back. This does not necessarily mean that you should sit in defence the entire game, as that would be very counterintuitive.
Knowing when to transition from attack into defence generally comes from a good understanding of where your teammates are positioned. A good rule of thumb for the lower levels is that once you have hit the ball to a position in which you are no longer the most favourable player to reach it, you should be rotating out, away from the ball, in behind your teammates. Rotating away from the ball is the essential part to this as it tells your teammates that they can safely contest the ball with the knowledge that you aren’t going to be doing the same.
Below is a video from Musty showing a good example of how to transition out from attack into a more defensive and more supporting role.
In the above video, Musty calls this process of rotation “far post rotations” which is a bit misleading as you don’t always need to be rotating to your far post. You should be rotating in that direction, but if you are trying to keep up pressure, going all the way back to your own net relieves your opponents of that pressure and they’re able to exploit the space you’ve left in midfield. Defending further up the pitch is just as important as defending your net.
When your team finds yourself sustaining pressure from your opponents on your goal, this is when the far post rotations really comes into fruition. A good solid defensive rotation relies so much on the team’s ability to rotate to the far post. Once a ball is contested (i.e. in the corner ahead of the goal), if the team is unable to immediately start a counter, the player who has contested that ball should be rotating out, away from the ball, towards the back post. Too many players will go to the front post when defending and an example of why you should go to the back post is shown below.
Look at how much more of the pitch you can see in the first image compared to how little you can see in the second image. If the ball gets put over this player on the front-post then it’s an easy goal but if there is a far post rotation like the first image then it is much easier to defend.
One more thing to consider when you’re rotating to goal is your position in the net. A lot of people will rotate into a position in front of the net but too far away from the goal leaving a gap for the opponents to squeeze the ball through. This is one of the most common ways I see players conceding goals in Diamond level, where rotations are forming quite well but they’re still not performed efficiently enough.
When rotating back to goal, if there is nobody already in the net then you should be rotating into your goal at the back post. The reason for this is that it allows you to have a bit more time to use your momentum to hit the ball. An example of good positioning in goal is shown above.
If there is already a player in this position however, you should not be rotating back into your goal and instead should be rotating back with the potential of going up onto the back wall should you need to as when you move up the ranks, players start using the backboard a lot more to setup shots for their teammates.
If you can become a good defender of your backboard, you will see a huge benefit as you improve. Once you reach the Champion ranks, good backboard defence becomes absolutely critical. When you watch professional level Rocket League, you will see just how often players go up onto the backboard to clear a ball away from the danger zone.
Some good training packs for practicing your backboard defence are as follows:
Wall Clears by J$TN: 9274-D4A2-967B-0D7A
Backboard Reads by Rizzo: 07E1-81BC-DD2E-BF8C
Backboard Clears by WayProtein: F1D5-36FA-257C-80A8
However, for PC players, there is a much better way to train these options and that is to use something that not many players use anymore called the Rocket League Trainer. This is a piece of 3rd party software which allows you to turn free play into your own version of Custom Training. This is what all the top players in the game used before Custom Training was a thing in the game. To download the Rocket League Trainer, visit this link: https://www.rocketleaguetrainer.com/p/download
Once you have the application downloaded, you can download the below packs to add into it which are, in my opinion, the best way to practice your back wall defence.
Trainer Pack - Toonfish: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzgUrimgNdNXYUx6RDRPTUtkams/view
Trainer Pack - Kevpert Wall Powerclears: https://www.rocketleaguetrainer.com/playlist/582048f2b7dcc
Trainer Pack - Kevpert Back Wall Defense: https://www.rocketleaguetrainer.com/playlist/5835b06fe7097
To use these packs, copy the files into the “trainingSessions” folder within the rltrainer directory, launch the application and select the relevant checkboxes. Enter Free Play and any time you hit the “Reset Shot” button, it will throw one of these shots at you.
One thing that you must eradicate from your game if you want to become a great defender is panic. Panicking on defence leads to poor saves that are barely cleared and often capitalised on. There are a number of ways that you can prevent panic defence but it will take time and practice.
A training pack called “Uncomfortable Saves” by Carlos Mailman is a personal favourite of mine. The code for this is 5CB2-6D82-1B54-47B7 and these shots will be coming from awkward angles which require you to react quickly. It is one thing to make the save but it is another thing entirely to make the save well. You want to be trying to clear the ball out of the danger zone, off to your corner on each of these saves. Do not rest until you can do so with every shot on the pack.
In my opinion, the best way to prevent panic defence is to learn how best to stall for time allowing your teammates to get back into a suitable position. This is best achieved by baiting in your opponents and learning how to shadow defend. Shadow defence is something I have mentioned previously in one of my other articles, but it is so important, particularly in 1v1s and 2v2s and once you reach the higher ranks, that you will not be able to compete without it. The below video from SunlessKhan explains the concept of Shadow Defence in great detail.
Many people struggle with solo-queuing in this game and it can be frustrating when you see that your teammates are seemingly never there to stop the goal. Making yourself a great defender and playing a smart, passive, yet sensible game will go a long way to helping you improve. There is a lot more to this game than scoring goals and being that rock at the back of the field is one fine way to make your teammates love you.