The midfielders on your soccer team represent crucial links in a chain. They have to receive the ball from the fullbacks and make good decisions on how to distribute it to the attackers. In addition, midfielders need to fill in fluidly on defense and offense if breakdowns occur or opportunities present themselves. If you are one of these workhorses, you need to be smart, fit and versatile.
Ways to Get Fit
If you are moving into midfield from defense, you may need to improve your cardiovascular conditioning. Midfield, especially on the left and right side of the field, may require more end-to-end runs of the field than playing on defense does. If you are dropping back from a career as a striker, you may be a decent sprinter but lack endurance. Either way, you can add informal pickup games, indoor soccer or just one-on-one games against a teammate or buddy to improve your endurance. Or perform interval runs or repeated sprints, such as suicides, shuttles or fartleks.
Drilling Ball Skills
Midfielders need superlative ball-control and passing skills. The contributors to the book “Attacking Soccer” recommend that coaches assemble as many drills as possible to get midfielders used to quickly controlling the ball and moving it precisely to a teammate just after they receive a pass. For example, you can set up two little rectangles marked by cones measuring 12 by 15 yards. Organize two teams of seven to 10 players in each box. One team in box “A” has to complete seven passes and then pass the ball to players in box “B” to get a point, where the game continues. You can play up to the point when the winning team makes five points. This drill is often seen as a warm-up before Major League Soccer games.
If your team uses the typical 4-4-2 formation, it will have four midfielders sandwiched between four defenders and two forwards. The two central midfielders, as shuttles between the defense and offense, need to maintain constant awareness of the positions of their teammates and the opposition. For example, Barcelona standout midfielder Andres Iniesta describes taking little glances up and around before he receives the ball. By doing so, he can decide quickly where to pass the ball with what is called a one-touch pass. Make good decisions, he advises: Where to stand, where to pass, who wants the pass, where to provide it. The best way to acquire this skill is trial and error, through investing hours in soccer games, formal and informal, and assessing what works and what doesn’t. Watching live and televised professional soccer can help, too.
Attacking and Scoring
The wing midfielders on the left and right can carry the ball up the sides and attempt to score themselves or cross the ball in to the forwards. Central midfielders can also shoot from distance or finish crosses in front of the goal. The team can readily practice crossing and finishing by forming five lines at midfield. Wing midfielders and defenders can stand in the outside lines. The right flank player dribbles the ball down the wings and crosses it -- sending a long pass -- toward the front of goal. Three players who have advanced from the middle lines try to score by heading, volleying or trapping and shooting the ball. Repeat on the left flank and continue alternating.