Corners are the worst enemy of lower-ranked Rocket League players. The inability to consistently clear the ball out of a corner is a problem that is far too common for players in and around the ranks of silver and gold.
In every 2v2 or 3v3 game of silvers or golds, three things happen more frequently than anything else.
- The ball ends up getting stuck in a corner
- Players start whiffing around the ball
- Clueless defenders weakly touch the ball passing it straight to opponents who boot it into the net for a goal.
Being stuck at these levels is often attributed to not knowing what to do when the ball is their corner and players from the other team pile up for an easy shot at the goal.
Note: This is a long essay. If you want a TLDR, just check out the quick summary, or feel free to click on your desired topic from the following list to go straight to that section.
- Positioning & Rotation in Corner Defense
- Corner Mistakes that lead to Goals
- Clearing the Ball from the Corner
- Ball Pinch
- Pushing the Ball up the Wall
- Dribble / Pass Play
- Waiting at Net
- Training Packs
How do you get better at defending corners in rocket League? Is there a specific course of action in this situation? Should you attempt a 50/50? Should you push the ball up the wall? Should you slam it against the corner?
Me: Dude I’m struggling. What do you do to clear corners?
Friend who is the same level as me: I don’t know just like.. hit it into the corner and it will like.. bounce upfield like.. along the wall or something.
Me: Hey man can you give me tips for corner defense?
Friend who is 3 ranks above me: So you got problems clearing the ball from corners?
Me: Yea, while defending.
Friend who is 3 ranks above me: Just don’t rush it you know? Use a light touch driving along the back wall you know? Then once you’re just past the corner and in the proper angle bang it for a clear you know? That’s it.
There’s nothing wrong with this kind of advice except that it isn’t helpful. The first piece of advice is too vague because it came from someone who doesn’t care enough for improvement. The second piece of advice is too specific because it came from someone who is mechanically much better and can execute many things based on situations.
If I was consistently hitting the ball at proper angles why would I even ask such a question? Let alone angle, I’m not even able to carry enough momentum precisely because it is a corner. I knew that to solve my problem I had to look beyond the vague or the overly specific answers. So I reached out to even more people and managed to talk to players who faced and learned to overcome the same problems of corner defense as I did. Here is what I found.
Effectively clearing the ball from your corner is about making the right decision based on three things – 1. Where your opponents are. 2. Where the ball is. 3. The positioning (and rotation) of your team.
For instance, if the opponents are midfield, you can push the ball up the wall or lob it over them. If they are closer to the corner you can either pinch the ball to send it upfield along the wall. If they are much closer then get into a 50/50. If they are already in your corner and you are the last defender, then hang back and wait at your goal till a teammate rotates behind you.
Besides these options, your strategy and approach to corner defense considerably differ based on whether you are playing 1v1, 2v2, or 3v3.
So, is there one right thing to do? The answer is no. Corner defense is extremely situational. In this essay, we’ll get into details of common corner situations that you encounter while defending or trying to clear the ball and work our way to the best potential responses.
Positioning & Rotation for Corner Defense
From unranked up to gold, players anxiously tackle corners with just two mindsets – endless hesitation or blindly charging with no regard for boost, recovery, compromised position, or rotation.
Take an example of 2v2 games with lower-level players. Often both defenders rush to clear the ball from the corner. This becomes an easy opportunity for the opponents to quickly center and tap into an open net.
To consistently clear the ball from corners while defending, you will first have to understand the basics of defensive corner positioning and rotation. Here’s a very short summary of how to correctly position and rotate. If you’re not already familiar with positioning and rotation in rocket league then pay attention. If you are familiar with this subject, then feel free to skip to the next section.
For positioning, the rules are as follows.
1. Follow the 1st man, 2nd man, 3rd man order.
2. Maintain appropriate space – not too close, not too far.
3. Don’t double commit.
For rotation, the only rule is to rotate far post or back post.
When the first defender loses a 50/50 or whiffs and fails to clear the ball (which is common in junior ranks) they must then rotate far post to be the new last back player. The third man (the previous goalie) will now move up to take the second man’s position while the second man moves up to become the first man or the challenger.
Do not, under any circumstance, rotate ball side.
Importance of Positioning & Rotation
An unsaid rule is to always trust your teammates. Never break the order of rotation or correct positioning even if a teammate is not as skilled as you are at handling the ball.
A team with less skilled members that follow positioning and rotations can easily challenge opponents that are more advanced but who break positioning or rotation due to their lack of trust for teammates.
Don’t break positioning and don’t rotate ball side even when there is no one to challenge the ball. Be patient, hang back, and wait for a teammate to rotate behind you, then head up.
These rules apply for 2v2, 3v3, and 4v4.
1st Man’s Role
Since this essay is mainly for ranks gold and below, I’d like to add a point here about the first man’s role in active defense. As the first man, you cannot hesitate or wait when you don’t have possession. You must play to force the opponent into making a decision.
Don’t hang back and let your opponent dribble the ball into your corner. The more time you give them with the ball, the more opportunities they will be able to create to score against your team. Make your play and then work from there or if you fail, rotate out and let your teammates move up.
Corner mistakes that lead to goals
These are the four most common corner defense mistakes that directly lead to goals in low-ranked games.
- Rotating ball side or breaking positioning:
Players do this for several reasons one of which is wanting to collect the big middle boost capsule. Whatever be the case, you should try not to rotate ball side because that will put you in between the ball and the teammate that’s trying to rotate up to get into play, thereby making things more difficult for them. What’s even worse is that by rotating ball side, you may accidentally nudge the ball back towards your corner or your net.
- Double committing:
This is such a common mistake in 2v2 games. Two teammates completely unaware of each other double commit to the ball coming into their corner, leaving the entire field and their net open for the opponents to pounce and score an easy goal within seconds. You should be spaced out from your teammate and available to either defend the net or get in and clear the ball if your teammate rotates behind you. But that can’t happen if both of you are trying to hit the ball at the same time.
- Hitting the ball into the sidewall:
This is another very common mistake in lower-ranked games. When coming from the net towards the corner, players are unable to get momentum at an angle to hit the ball along the wall. So they hit it into sidewall hoping that the deflection will turn into a good clear. This should be avoided, as it often results in an unintentional center for your opponents. Remember you only want to clear the ball along the wall. If that feels impossible then keep it in the corner until you can control it and dribble out.
Gamer anxiety and panic is a whole topic in itself that needs to be talked about. For this essay, just remember that panic proves to be more costly in defense than anywhere else. We are prone to making mistakes when we panic and it becomes very likely for us to get into an unnecessary dodge or a double jump. We then proceed to waste even more time recovering from that move, when we should have been fighting for ball possession. There’s not much I can say that will stop you from panicking except for this one fact. Remember this when you panic – in lower-level games (silver, gold, etc.) the odds that an opponent will score a goal directly from the corner are low because it’s a pretty tough angle for an accurate shot. They are probably as scared as you are so calm down and stay alert.
- Rotating ball side or breaking positioning:
So far we’ve covered rotation, positioning, and what players must not do during corner defense. Now we’ll talk about what you can do in different scenarios when trying to effectively clear corners.
Clearing the ball from the corner
Talking to other players, I discovered that there are many ways to clear corners. As you go up the ranks you will watch players employing many lucrative ways to deal with common situations in Rocket League. I’ve seen players more skilled than myself using mechanics like air roll shots to instantly clear the ball before it even bounces in the direction of their corner.
But to help beginners like myself out, I had to start somewhere. So I categorized my conversations based on context and what popped out is these 5 labels. These are the 5 most common – call it methods, situations, scenarios, whatever – that happen in corner defense.
- Ball Pinch
- Pushing the ball up the wall
- Dribble / Pass play
- 50 / 50
- Waiting at net
Let’s go through them one by one.
1. Ball Pinch
This is my favorite among the five. I have to admit that before doing the research for this post, I had heard of the pinch, I had even accidentally pinched the ball couple of times but I was never intrigued to try and intentionally learn how to do it. But after talking to other players, I started practicing and executing pinches in games and I am in love with it.
If you are rushed for time and have to make a move quickly or if the ball is already riding the sidewall then pinching the ball out of the corner works pretty well. Pinching does require some practice before players can consistently start executing it though.
However, you also don’t need to be kuxir to execute a pinch. Relatively speaking, it is one of the easier mechanics to learn. Pinching the ball at its lower left or lower right between your car and the sidewall instantly sends it along the wall towards the opponents’ corner.
Remember we are not trying to pinch the ball to score a goal. A clear is all we are looking for so there is no need to air roll into your pinch. Just approach the pinch with a 45 degree backward tilt. However, pinch shots are so random and unpredictable that when you start pinching the ball out of corners, sometimes the ball might boom straight into the other team’s net bringing you a free goal. If that happens, call it lucky and move on.
If you’re going to get a pinch from the nose then it’s better to be at an angle such that your nose points upwards and slightly towards the opponents’ side of the field. Practice this in free play until you are comfortable with slight variations in ball velocity and your starting position. Sometimes you’ll get a pinch from the nose of your car and other times from the front right edge of your car.
You do not want to pinch the ball straight up into the air. Because that may send the ball high but not far and will lead to a counterattack from opponents waiting nearby. Instead, you want to clear it far into the opponents’ side so you can buy your team time.
The progressional breakdown I followed when learning how to pinch shot a ball out of corners is as follows.
Step 1: Learn to give the right amount of gap between you and the ball
Step 2: Follow the ball. When it begins riding the wall, practice jumping into it such that you hit a desired area of the ball with the nose of your car. You won’t be pinching it yet, the car will mostly just bounce back.
Don’t flip or air roll yet. But do use boost in your jumps. With steps 1 and 2 we are trying to learn to perfect our timing by being able to consistently meet the ball at the right moment when it is between your car’s nose and the wall.
Step 3: Once you’re comfortable with step 2, then practice tilting slightly backward in your jump such that the lower side of your car right under its nose slams into the lower side of the ball. This will send the ball upwards.
Step 4: After you are comfortable with steps 1 – 3 focus on trying to pinch the ball with the front right or front left edge of your car. This is all about keeping your approach slightly off to one side so that your car’s width only slightly overlaps with the ball’s width and the overlap increases with your approach to the ball as depicted in the image below.
Step 5: Practice practice practice.
Practice with the trainer packs (codes mentioned at the end of the essay) and practice in free play. Once you get pinch shots down they become a huge advantage at silver and gold ranks.
2. Pushing the ball up the wall
The wall is another alternative. Players can take the ball up the wall or hit it upwards along the wall but it depends on your skill.
40% of the people I talked to told me pushing the ball up the wall and then clearing it from there usually works pretty well. If you are not comfortable with that, then just try to get good at rolling the ball up the wall with a soft initial touch and follow it fast to get a second harder touch to then clear it. Of course, this is something that anyone can get good at by practicing with training packs or in free play.
But, whether you are trying to attempt a wall clear or trying to drive the ball up the wall, the problem for many players is the wall itself. So many beginners find the wall intimidating because, in ball cam, the camera tends to go outside the field when your car is on the wall. This makes it tricky for them to hit the ball.
Getting comfortable with the wall and learning to use it to your advantage is a topic so vast that it deserves an essay of its own. But for now, here are two solutions to help you with the weird angles on walls.
Option 1: Practice toggling ball cam off on walls. A lot of players toggle out of ball cam on walls just like they do when collecting boost or going for focussed hits. This isn’t too hard and can come with practice.
Option 2: If you find that you are unable to toggle out of ball cam, this trick will help you. The weird angles are not caused due to ball cam but due to where the ball is in relation to the car. The easiest thing to do is to approach the ball at an angle and always slow down on walls. Boosting all the way to the ball on the wall immediately puts you very close to or ahead of the ball and hardly gives you any time during your approach to the ball.
Boost only on the way up to the wall then stop boosting when you begin your climb and control your speed so that the camera stays behind you and ensure that you can see the car, the ball, and at least some portion of the opponent’s goal post. This is possible with practice and will help you become familiar with walls.
Exactly like learning to pinch, learning to get comfortable with the wall too is an important asset at lower ranks because most players are not good at it.
For instance, in a corner defense situation in 2v2 or 1v1, as a goalie, you may find that you often have to intercept a ball that the opponent is trying to center by rolling it up the corner wall. This too becomes easier if you know how to maneuver the wall better in ball cam.
3. Dribble / Pass Play
If you have some time and space between you and your opponents then maybe don’t just try to execute a big clear and give up ball possession. Instead, you could slow the game down for a potential dribble/pass play.
At this point, beginners will go “Yea, but how exactly does one do that?”.
Let’s assume you are the first challenger into the corner trying to defend. You have ball possession and your opponents are either waiting or shadowing but not immediately pressurizing you. Dribble the ball upfield, when the waiting opponents get close, wait until they are at a distance where they are forced to commit, then quickly pass the ball to a teammate or lob it upfield over their heads.
Here is a good video by thanovic that teaches the basics of how to pass the ball effectively.
Of course, to properly execute this, you’ll need to be somewhat proficient with ground dribbles. There are plenty of training packs and workshop maps for that. Or just go practice how to dribble in free play.
Once you have learned how to dribble, a good place to practice dribble/pass play is in casual games. I find that most silver and gold players in casual have a very reckless style of playing. This kind of environment is perfect for practicing dribbling and passing – assuming that you have someone to pass to.
Two things stand out about 50/50’s
- They are all about perfect timing and
- They are extremely situational.
Mechanics of corner 50/50s
Every time you get into a 50/50 trying to clear the ball out of your corner, the mechanical laws of 50/50 apply.
What are these laws?
- The player that makes better contact with the car’s hitbox may win.
- If both cars make equally good contact, then the car that hits the ball more towards the center may win.
- If both hit it right at the center, then the car that is faster and carrying more momentum may win.
- If both are carrying equal momentum, then sometimes the car that flips through the ball (flip cancel) may win.
- Other times, the player that better covers the ball with their entire hitbox may win.
- Or the player that lets the opponent hit the ball first and positions themselves to get a better, more central, flip canceled, second-hit may win.
- Or it’s just down to plain luck.
Not flipping through the ball causes low-ranked corner defenders to lose many 50/50s. It’s a corner after all. Whether you are coming from the net or whether you started from a dead-stop from the corner you will always have lesser momentum at the 50/50 than the opponent who is coming straight from midfield with all their boost.
For situations like these, with no boost or little momentum, the only way to win the 50 is by flipping through the ball or timing your jump so that you are the last person to hit the ball.
Game sense of corner 50/50s
Then there is the game sense side of 50/50s. For instance, while flipping through the ball is advantageous to win 50/50’s it is not advisable at all times.
Consider this situation. If you are the last man back at the net and it comes down to a 50/50, you’ll have to factor in not just wanting to win the 50 but also recovering quickly if you botch your attempt to counter a follow-up attack on the net.
So in that case, it’s better to single jump and position yourself such that your car centrally meets the ball to absorb all of its momenta. On the other hand, if a teammate has just rotated far post as you’re heading into the 50/50, then taking a small risk to flip through the ball is fine because even if you take time recovering, the teammates got the net.
Know your objectives
Remember, you got into a 50/50 because your team wasn’t able to clear the ball in time due to bad positioning, bad timing, or just bad luck. There is no point trying to convert the 50/50 into a clear, so don’t approach it like that.
Instead when going into a 50/50 try to have clarity about where you want the ball to go. Depending on your position and the positions of your teammates, and your opponents, you may want to win or lose the contest so you can convert the 50/50 into an opportune pass to a teammate, who could then clear the ball or proceed into a dribble/pass play.
The bottom line is that sometimes ball possession is more important than winning a 50/50.
5. Waiting at net
Not waiting at your net, when you are the last defender is a common mistake that results in goals in lower-ranked games. Although being impulsive seems like the right thing to do it is not. There is no need to abandon your position at the goal and head in to challenge the ball in your corner. It is easier to stay in the goal and remain calm.
Remember, position and rotation are more important than mindless corner challenges. Be patient, wait for your teammate to rotate back post behind you. Once that happens, then head up for the challenge.
However, while you wait in the goal you can be smart and also position yourself so that the opponent doesn’t have too much freedom and you make them think you might challenge (even if you don’t intend to). Do a little fake by driving an inch forward and stopping. This might provoke weaker opponents into making a move earlier than they otherwise would or slow down completely so you can get time for your teammates to rotate behind you.
But also be wary of skilled opponents. Always anticipate a cross or dribble shot, and if it comes attack it aggressively. If it is the odd high cross then make sure to time your jump to perfection. Avoid fancy flips, since you want to be recovering quickly.
As for where to stand in the net, that is based on preference. Many players like to wait inside the net. I like to be positioned slightly outside my goal and at somewhat of an angle towards the corner.
Let’s sum up everything we went through in a single list.
- Maintain spacing between you and your teammates.
- Follow correct positioning.
- Rotate far post.
- Don’t charge into the corner if a teammate is already there.
- Don’t double or triple commit.
- Don’t panic and waste a dodge or double flip.
- Don’t hit the ball into the sidewall.
- Learn to pinch.
- Learn to push/drive the ball up the wall.
- Slowing down helps with ball cam on the wall.
- Practice dribble/pass play.
- Know your objectives in a 50/50
- Learn to be patient.
- When needed, wait at the net.
If there’s only one thing you can take away from this essay then please let it be the idea of positioning and rotations. If you keep the basic principles of correct positioning in mind, it will greatly improve your game instantly and corner defense will become considerably easier.
Besides that, identify your weak areas (dribbling, wall shots, pinching, etc.) and try deliberate practice to improve on them one at a time.
Training Packs for Corner Defense
Here is a list of codes for relevant training packs in case you want to practice certain specific scenarios we talked about in the essay.
Corner Defense Beginner / Intermediate: 985E-588B-731E-E1D4
Corner Clears / Wall Reads: 3E7F-BCEE-B3DF-F908
Pinch Shot Practice: 0E99-5226-5F68-4804
Wall Shots by Poquito: 9F6D-4387-4C57-2E4B
Rookie Dribble Training: 04C1-42C8-6E5D-6F75
For when you’ve mastered everything in this essay and quickly moved out of gold. Here’s an amazing video by rocket league YouTuber cbell with advanced-level tactics for corner defense.