Utility players in soccer are rare, especially at older and higher levels. At young ages [6-11] I think coaches should put players in different positions so they learn them… Then by ages 14-21 they are equipped and confident. Yes, some players are better at defense, while others are natural mids or forwards. Although, when you get into high school, college or pro it’s common that a player who was an attacking player their whole life might end up as an outside back. I had a trainee who played CM from age 10 – 15 and then at age 16 through college he played outside back. He said it took him a while to adjust.
Choosing a roster with utility players
Utility players make it fun for coaches when forming the roster because they can rely on certain players to change last minute or fill in a missing player from injury.
You might have a center or outside back who is best in that position, but also has good technique. This is the type of player you could play at center mid or maybe even forward.
3 pro players who play 2 positions well:
- Fernandinho – video [Brazilian] who played with Manchester City before retiring… He could play CM [#6] or CB very well. Smooth on the ball, but could defend 1v1.
- Julie Ertz [American] plays CB as her most natural position, but can also play CM as a defensive center mid [#6].
- Zinchenko [Ukrainian] on Arsenal can play 3 positions naturally. LB, CM or LM because again, he can defend and control the ball.
As you can see the 3 players listed above can play mid and defense, which is most common… Although, there are players like Kevin De Bruyne who can play forward and midfield [#10 / #8].
Learn more about the player numbering system – why positions are called #6, #10 or #8 for example.
“There’s a small percentage of players who can play different positions… They are so valuable!”
Most common utility players in soccer
Athletes who naturally understand the game make for good utility players in soccer especially if they are fast or have good skills.
3 key elements:
- Good athletes [fast and agile]
- Players who naturally understand the game [cutting off angles and seeing the space to pass or dribble]
- Technical players can play any position fairly well because if you can receive the ball quick and make good passes that’s a lot of the game.
It’s rare for a kid to have all these attributes at a young age… And if they do, is their attitude good? Do they want to be great or is it just a hobby?
“When you get the ball, see far so that you will also see short… If you only see short, you won’t see far also. Two options are better than one.”
Why midfielders make good utility players in soccer
A natural midfielder is probably the position that can play most other roles…
Mids typically are players who can control the ball pretty well, but also defend… Therefore, making it easier to play defense or forward if need be.
Natural defenders playing other positions
Defenders who can play other positions are usually going to be a defensive CM [#6 role] or a forward.
They’re not going to become a play maker or goal scorer usually, but can do the opposite. In other words, win 50/50 balls and put pressure on the other team.
In addition, it’s important that players practice shooting and finishing – if you’re going to play an attacking role.
“At the higher levels, the best players are the ones who put in the extra work to improve.”
Forwards do well on the outsides
Forwards who end up playing a different position when older usually end up playing outside back or mid.
Playing outside back allows the team to possess the ball better and all you have to do is defend fairly well. It’s not like the center back role where you have to be a ‘bear in the air’ – winning headers.
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