The Best Way to Play as a Team
Teamwork is the most important aspect of Rocket League, though it can sometimes be hard to understand what your actual role is as a team player during an actual match. So in this article, I'm going to be explaining basic positioning on both Offense and Defense as well as some things that you should keep in mind during a match.
Keep in mind that these positions are very flexible as it totally depends on the situation. The purpose of this is just to help you understand what your role is on the field.
I'm also not a pro at Rocket League. I came up with these tips by observing mistakes that I've seen during matches and by experimenting with different play styles. If you have a different play style, then you might not agree with some of the things I say here, and that's totally fine. This isn't a guide to tell you how you must play the game. It's just a guide to explain how positioning works on the field for people who are wanting to get better at Rocket League. And with that said...let's get started.
The first thing we will cover is offensive positioning. Most of what I cover will be based on 3v3 matches, but a lot of it will also apply to 2v2 and 1v1. There are three different positions on offense. The first position is over by the corner of the other team's goal. Your objective is to center the ball. The easiest way to do it is to hit the ball into the corner wall so that it rolls up against the wall and in front of the goal. However, this isn't all that effective unless you're in the low ranks. Chances are that there will be someone from the other team waiting by the goal to steal the ball and clear it away from their goal, so you'll have to improvise your way around them. You could try dribbling the ball past them or dribbling the ball up the wall and tapping it away. All you want to do is get the ball past the defender and in front of the goal to set up the shot for your teammate over at position 2.
Position 2 is in front of the goal. Your job is to take the shot after you receive the pass from position 1. Make sure you locate the pass before you start moving towards the ball. Depending on how your position 1 teammate passes it to you, you might need to adjust your position. They might dribble the ball up the wall and tap it away to you in which case you need to position yourself in front of the pass so you can receive it and shoot the ball. Or if your teammate chooses to roll the ball directly in front of the goal, you need to get some momentum towards the ball so you can hit it as soon as it rolls in front of the goal. Just be patient and analyze the situation so you know when to come into play.
For position 3, you need to stay back towards midfield. Your job is to intercept any clears that the other team makes in order to keep the ball on their side. You should generally not be involved in the play unless the ball happens to come towards you. When that happens, just hit the ball back in the other direction in order to keep the offense going. You should also be the first one back on defense if the ball happens to get passed you. Make sure that you're reading the play carefully so that you know when to make a move.
Keeping each position in mind, make sure that you're rotating positions. Where each position rotates depends on the situation. If the center from position 1 fails and goes to the other corner, position 3 should go after the ball in the corner, now becoming position 1. Position 2 should then rotate back to position 3, and position 1 becomes the new position 2. In the case that the center from position 1 is deflected back in the other direction, position 1 and 3 should switch, with position 3 now going for the center and position 1 hanging back.
That pretty much covers offensive positioning, but you're not going to win with offense alone. It doesn't matter how many goals you score. If you have no defense, you're not going to win. Defense in Rocket League is less about teamwork and more about trusting and being there for your teammates. Though it might not seem like it, everyone has a role in defense as well. Most people tend to oversimplify defense as though it's just about making saves and clears. If you want to be good at defense, you need to be able to do more than just make saves and clears. You also need each player to do their job on defense. The one thing you don't want is every player trying to clear the ball leaving the goal wide open, or every player waiting in the goal giving the other team an easy shot at the goal.
Position 1 on defense is in the corner where the ball is. You are the first line of defense for your team. Your job is to clear the ball. Position 1 should be the only one going after the ball when it's in the corner away from the center and away from your own goal. A lot of teams make the mistake of having two people in the corner trying to clear away the ball. This is a bad idea, because having two players going after the ball could result in them accidentally bumping each other, or just getting in each other's way. Anyways, you'll most likely be faced against someone from the other team trying to center the ball. In the case that they try to dribble it past you, get some momentum towards your opponent and flip into the ball to steal it from him. Some people would recommend being patient, waiting for him to get close to you and then going after the ball. However, this gives him an opportunity to change direction at the last second, throwing you off guard and making you miss the ball. Make sure you don't hesitate. If you charge the ball as he's coming at you, it gives him less time to react and you're more likely to steal it from him. Be prepared to go up the wall. If he tries hitting the ball up the wall past you, you need to be ready to drive up the wall and tap it away. All you're trying to do is clear away the ball from the corner, and stop any centers before they make it in front of your goal.
Position 2 takes place near the opposite corner from position 1. You should be positioned not fully in the corner, but not in front of the goal either. You are the second line of defense for your team. Your job is to deflect away any shots or centers that happen to get past position 1. You can think of this position as the alternative goalie. You're stopping shots from going in the goal, but not right as they're about to go in. This position is very important for stopping difficult shots that the goalie can't save, such as the back-wall bounce. You should be observing the play from the other team so you can make an accurate read on the ball when you go to hit it.
Position 3 is the last line of defense. You are the goalie. Your objective is to make the save if the ball gets past your position 1 teammate and your position 2 teammate misses the ball. Now there's a right and a wrong way to play goalie. The wrong way is to sit on the edge of the goal facing outward (like you see in the picture below) and wait for the ball to come to you. This will lead to you missing easy saves and getting easily outdribbled. You need to be constantly moving around near the goal. It's best to move parallel to the ball when you see it rolling in front of the goal so that you can easily position yourself in the way of the ball when the other team takes the shot. In the case that somebody is dribbling towards you or taking a shot off the back wall, you need to do something called a pre-jump. Just get some momentum towards the ball. Then, the moment your opponent commits to an angle, flip in that direction to block the shot. A little hesitation is all it takes to mess up a save, so make sure you aren't waiting for the ball to come to you. And be prepared to take some crap from your teammates whenever you miss a save.
For rotation, the only time you'll ever have to rotate on defense is when the center from the other team fails and the ball ends up in the opposite corner. Position 2 moves into position 1, position 1 moves into position 3, and position 3 moves into position 2. In other words, the clearer becomes the new goalie, the goalie becomes the new backup, and the backup becomes the new clearer. This rotation works best because the ball is now on the opposite corner, so position 2 is now the closest one to the ball. So he should become the new position 1, trying to clear the ball while position 3 rotates in the other direction into position 2 and position 1 moves into position 3. Remember, since the ball is now in the opposite corner, the positions flip around. So if the ball was in the right corner but is now on the left, position 2 is now on the right side and position 1 is on the left (like in the picture below).
And that concludes offensive and defensive positioning and rotation. This is only one method of teamwork, but it's the most common one used in matches. As you rank up, your opponents get better and smarter and you may want to change things up, which is perfectly fine. There is no "correct" way to play Rocket League. There are just ways that are more effective than others. If you want to learn how to succeed as a team for higher ranks like diamond and champion, you can watch pros such as Kronovi, Doomsee, Rizzo, Gibbs, Sadjunior, etc, and observe how they play during matches.
If there was something I said in this article that you disagree with or doesn't make sense to you, feel free to comment below explaining your method or asking me to reexplain something. I'll be trying to respond to your comments if I can.