Player Portrait: Midfielders

After a snowy start to the new year we have finally seen some warmer than normal weather, and even crept into the 50s this past weekend. I want to take some time today to continue with our series of what we look for in prospective players by position. Last week I wrote an email on what we look for in our forwards and attacking-minded players. Today’s email will focus on center midfielders.

Every program out there is going to be similar in what they want in a centermid. These players need to be able to cleanly receive and pass a ball not only through the midfield, but also connect on passes in wide space and into forwards’ feet. There are two traits however that we look for in addition to the obvious.

  1. Body Shape:  We love having possession of the ball, but want to do so in the opposing team’s half. So, we want our centermids to try to have their chest facing forward when they receive the ball. This is unnatural for most players and is something that must be trained to make second nature. Most centermids we see are used to checking straight back and receiving the ball with the back to the goal. This results in many negative passes and an inability to get forward. Instead of running straight back, we want our centermids to arc their run like a half moon which allows their chest to be facing upfield. By being in this position, centermids can more easily pass into forward positions.
  2. Scanning: This is something we sometimes refer to as “head checking” as well and should be a habit of all centermids. Players playing in the middle of the pitch should be looking over their shoulders constantly, especially as the ball is being passed to their feet. If you were to watch a Spanish League player, they would do this three to five times everytime they receive a ball. Our college players average one to two times. The more a centermid looks over his shoulder before receiving it, the more they know what to do with their first touch, and they don’t need to look up again before taking their second touch.

In addition to these habits of centermids, I also want to clarify how we break down specific roles of centermids. We will change our formation to get the best players on the field. This may mean that we are playing with two, three, or potentially even four centermids at times. However a typical formation for us would result in playing with three centermids which I will categorize as an attacking centermid, box to box centermid, and a holding centermid. In the last email I outlined what we want from our attacking centermids. Below is more details on the other two positions.

  1. Box To Box Centermid: This position is the brains of our team. In addition to having all of the good habits previously described, we need this player to be on the ball more than all other players and make the decisions on the field of how we will attack and possess the ball based on what the other team is doing. This player will at times check deep to get on a ball, but always with their chest facing forward when possible. They will also get forward into the attack, often times with a late run into the box. They need to find the balance between getting forward and possessing and communicate it to the rest of the team.
  2. Holding Centermid: This player tends to sit deeper than the box to box centermid. Their primary job is to sit in front of the centerbacks and win balls both on the ground and in the air to take pressure off the backline. From a possession standpoint, this player helps us to ball swing through the backline and when they get a ball facing forward with little pressure, we want them to be able to hit driven balls to wingers pinned in the corners.