The center midfielder, to borrow from American football terminology, serves as the “quarterback” of a soccer team. “She’s the all-important hub of the team, off of which the spokes of the team’s wheels spin,” observes Maryland-based women’s competitive team coach Wes Harvey. While goalkeepers need fearlessness, and strikers and central defenders pure speed, “center mids” must possess standout versatility to excel.
Center midfielders need first-rate foot skills to permit receiving, possessing and distributing the ball. You’ll operate mainly in the busy middle of the field, and if you can’t control a pass that comes to you, it will ricochet away, likely to the opposing team’s center midfielder or defenders. Successful center midfielders radiate a certain confidence and calm with the ball at their feet, fending off challenges by the opposing team by rotating to shield the ball and giving themselves time to think and survey their options.
You need to have 360-degree vision of the field and must be comfortable serving as a link in a chain of passes that may go forward to strikers, laterally to wing midfielders or back to the defensive midfielder, fullbacks or goalkeeper. You might also need to take matters into your own hands, bypassing the forwards to score. Famed French midfielder Zinedine Zidane, for example, scored two headers on corner kicks to send France past Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final.
Knowledge of the Game
Allied to decision-making ability is superb knowledge of the game. You’ll need to know when to attack and when to help on defense. Since you need to think and react more quickly than other players, you’ll need a firm understanding of soccer tactics and strategies. In the common 4-4-2 formation, featuring four defenders, four midfielders and two strikers, your team will have two central midfielders, one in an attacking role and one in a defensive role. You’ll act like twin stars to make good things happen. You both need to make yourselves available to any teammate, in any position or location, by running to an open space and calling for the ball authoritatively from your teammate.
Zidane was said to have stepped on every blade of grass during a soccer match, a statement indicating that he felt free to roam away from the middle of the pitch and a testament as well to his endurance. Conditioning is crucial to the center midfielder. Strikers can take a little rest when the ball is at the other end of the field, as can defenders. As a center midfielder, you need to stay close to the action, especially if the team strategy relies on possessing the ball, as professional clubs like Barcelona or Arsenal do. National teams from Brazil, Italy and Spain depend heavily on this position, and their center mids display exceptional conditioning.