Many beginners play soccer without really understanding what they are supposed to do while on the field. This leads to players being out of position and the team's play being disjointed. To avoid this, it is very important as a beginner that you understand the different roles in soccer so that you can play properly with your teammates.
- What is a player role in soccer?
There are 22 players on the soccer pitch, but only one has the ball at any given moment. While this player has the ball, the other players must work together to help their team. The team who do not have possession must position themselves so that they can defend their goal, while players on the team who has the ball must move to give options to the player on the ball.
The position that each player takes up in the situation above is dictated by his or her role on the team. There are many roles when attacking or defending, but we shall separate these into three main categories of defenders, midfielders, and attackers with each of these being separated further into central and wide roles. The goalkeeper is a special role that will be considered the same as central defenders for simplicity.
- Defenders, midfielders, and attackers
Many novice players simply run ahead of the ball in an attempt to score when playing, but if you have ever watched a professional match you will notice that this is not the way to play. While a few players will run ahead of the ball to score, other players will stay alongside the player in possession and the rest will stay behind in case the ball is lost and there is a counterattack, This creates three banks of players, the defenders, midfielders, and attackers.
-- Defenders seek to provide options behind the ball (between the ball and their own goal) when their team is attacking and look to be the last set of players to stop opponents when the opposition is trying to score. They will occasionally run ahead of the ball but their priority is to protect the goal.
-- The next bank of players, the midfielders, seek to fill in wherever they are needed. They give forward passes to the goalscorers, run ahead of the ball when there is a good chance, and try to stop opposition attackers before they can cause problems for the defenders. Midfielders are often called the engines of the team because they connect the defense and attack, supporting both sets of players and keeping the team going.
-- Attackers are the players whose main responsibility is putting the ball in the back of the net. They will be the first to defend against counter attacks, but they do not chase opponents too far back since they must be the closest players to the opposition goal when their team wins the ball back and attacks.
- Creating width
With the three banks understood, a soccer player must then understand about width. All players cannot just run through the middle of the pitch. Because of this, there is usually one player on each side of the pitch (the wings) who stays close to the touchline in each bank. These players give options to pass the ball wide and around opponents since there is often a lot of space on the wings that players can exploit. Without width, it would be easy for teams to defend against each other since attackers' movements would be very predictable.
- Supporting the play
The final thing to understand about roles in soccer is support. Support means working with your teammate who has the ball or is trying to stop the opponent who does. This can be done by running into an open space so your teammate can pass to you, or by providing cover for a teammate who is defending, by waiting between them and the goal in case their opponent gets past them.
Teams whose players support each other are much stronger and can play a very fluid game because they always have options to pass and never have to defend alone.
As a beginner, you might feel that the most important thing on the football field is to get into position to score, but your role is very important. Now that you understand these basic player roles, you can go on to the pitch and continue to learn techniques like dribbling and passing while also knowing that you are in the correct position and working with your team. The most important thing in soccer is to know your role in the team.