One of the most amazing things about growing up playing soccer your entire life is the relationships you form with different players and coaches. A little over 10 years ago I was playing club soccer for a team called Leeds United in little old Lancaster County Pennsylvania. We had our head coach and two assistant coaches, one being my dad, and the other who I can call one of my really good friends to this day. We play in fantasy soccer leagues together and seem to always be the two teams at the top at the end (he has managed to edge me out every season thus far). He supports Manchester United, while I support Chelsea. I know, sometimes it can be tough to manage. One of the biggest things we share is our love for the English Premier League.
Recently I received an email from him stating how he’s been playing in an over 40 league and the captain told him he thinks he needs him as a forward this year. In previous years, he was playing as an outside midfielder and he was really comfortable with the position. He continued by saying he’s beginning to get a better idea of his positioning and making runs through the midfield, but he can’t grasp playing with his back to the goal. Let’s just say, he came to the right place!
One of the biggest things as a striker is being able to read the game and when you should be making runs and when you should be playing as a target forward. If you playing on a counter attack, you should be timing your runs to make beyond the last defenders. An easy way to make sure you’re on-sides is to make your runs in line with the last two defenders. You want to make sure you are getting in between the two defenders so a ball can be slotted through to you. One of the hardest runs for defenders to pick up is diagonal runs through the midfield.
An advantage of being a natural midfielder and playing as a striker is you know where the pockets of space should be. You want to be able to provide your midfielders with an option for them to play into you so you can either A. give it right back or B. feel for your defender and spin around them. The most important element with playing as a target striker and being able to feel where your defenders are located. Obviously with your back to the goal you can’t see what is behind you but if you use both of your arms to feel for the defender, it gives you “eyes on the back of your head.” Your teammates should also be communicating with you by telling you “man on” or “turn.”
As a striker, you want to make sure you are not hiding behind your defenders. Many strikers can get lost in a game if they are not active and continue to make identical runs, it becomes too easy for the defenders to predict your next move. If you make your run and you don’t get the ball you need to check back to your midfielders and give them another option. When you get on the ball, you should not be taking more than one or two touches unless you teammates let you know that you have space to turn. If you can feel for your defender and notice that he’s cheating to one side, fake like you are going to that side and quickly turn the other way. You will most likely get fouled or you will be able to get away from your defender and find some space to attack.
If you want to be successful at playing as a striker you need to be able to read the game and to determine what runs you should be making. You need to continue to stay active even if you don’t receive the ball. You need to understand that even if you don’t receive the ball, by making those runs you are drawing a defender with you and opening up space for someone else. It is vital for you to give an option for your midfielders. Mix up your runs and time them so you can get in behind your defense. Once all is said and done, make sure you put in the finishing touch. Because you are a striker, and that is your job!