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How to Play Outside Back

Updated on August 22, 2014

Outside back is one of the most demanding and integral positions on the soccer field. Not only do they have to maintain defensive shape throughout a match, they also have to distribute the ball. Playing outside back requires the player to be in excellent shape to aid in the attack as well as the defense.  


When attacking outside backs need to spread out the field horizontally by opening up out wide. This allows the player more space to play in, and also makes defending more difficult for the other team by making the field of play larger. Outside backs are often finding the same side outside midfielder and supporting them. Outside backs commonly overlap outside midfielders, a run by the outside back behind the outside midfielder that forces defenders to choose between following the run of the outside back or staying on the outside midfielder. Since outside backs are so actively involved in the attack they need to be able to cross balls into the box well. Passing by outside backs also needs to be pristine because they need to maintain possession and orchestrate attacks from the back.


With a flat four in the back outside backs are constantly stepping, dropping, opening up, or compacting. When the ball is on the strong side, the ball is on the same side as the player; the outside back must push out wide and step forward. A ball played over the outside back by the opposing team can be dangerous, but with proper shape and cover by the center back it is not a problem. When the ball is on the weak side the outside back drifts inside and drops off, providing cover for the center backs. Knowing where to be during a game is extremely important for the outside back, improper positioning can lead to a futile wide attack, poor passing game and possession, and a flat defense that is easily beat by a well-played through ball. For any defender, especially an outside back, communication is key. Staying connected to your other teammates in thought is a very powerful tool. Communication such as “Step”, “Drop”, “Push up”, or “pressure” can be the difference between winning and losing. 


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