How to Play the Center Forward Position in Soccer
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The center forward in soccer needs to focus on one thing only: creating goals. If you are asked to play center forward, you’ll be playing close to the opponent’s goal throughout much of the game, looking for chances to score, like famed New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry, formerly of London club Arsenal. Specifics of your role may vary slightly depending on your team’s formation.
Position yourself near the midfield line of the soccer field when your team is on defense in its own half. Stay focused on the action and be prepared to make a run to goal if your teammates create a turnover. Avoid the temptation to take a major role in marking players as this leaves a gap in the offense at your position. Do apply mild pressure to the fullbacks and keeper if the ball comes near your zone.
Time your runs carefully to avoid being called offside as your team moves the ball up-field. Watch your teammates in the midfield as you stand in position so that the last line of defenders is between you and the goal. Begin sprinting toward goal a fraction of a second after your teammate passes the ball to the space past the defensive line.
Work with your fellow forward if there are two of you playing the center forward position, as happens in the typical 4-2-2 formation of recreational soccer. If your partner drifts to one side of the field as you near the goal, move close enough to the center of the field to be able to receive or send a pass to him in one-two combinations. Envision yourself invisibly tethered to the other forward to keep yourselves in close proximity. If one of you is better at dribbling the ball at your feet even when double-teamed without being stripped and the other better at finishing, have the first player provide assists to the second.
Shake your defender as you get closer to the goal by using your quickness and deception. Finish -- which mean score in soccer -- by beating the keeper in a 1-on-1; poking in a loose ball; leaping as high as you can to head in a corner or free kick; volleying a rebound after it bounces off the keeper’s hands, the crossbar or goalpost; or evading your defender and placing in a careful shot.
In a 4-4-1-1 formation, the center forward plays in front of a second striker rather than beside another center forward. Arsenal used Dennis Bergkamp in this role, notes the BBC Sport: Football online site.
In a one-forward formation, such as a 4-5-1, you have to work as part of passing combinations with midfielders rather than a partner forward. Chelsea uses Didier Drogba, with his exceptional size, strength and speed, as the center forward in front of five midfielders who try to control the game.
The 4-4-3 formation is seen in youth recreational soccer, where the center forward operates in a triangle with a left and right forward.
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.