Understanding positions on the soccer field


Chris Hewey

Goalie Nater Wachter makes a save during the Fall 2022 season.

Unless you play soccer yourself, you might not understand various positions and how fundamental each is to the success of the team.

Take the position of forward. There are multiple roles each player in this position can maintain including striker, center forward and winger.

The most common one is the striker, who plays straight down the middle ahead of the midfield and can be anything from a tall-target player sitting in the box, to a really fast attacker who can get in behind defenses.

Center forward Siddharth Rai goes on the attack during the Fall 2022 season. (Chris Hewey)

Wingers can play on either the right or left side of the field near the touchlines. Their objective is to quickly dribble past opposing full-backs and pass/cross the ball to the striker. If a team plays a narrower formation in the midfield, they may not even use wingers.

Then finally comes the center forwards. The center forward plays a little deeper than the striker would. This type of forward will sometimes be confused with an attacking midfielder, but the difference is that the center forward is still usually the furthest player forward. With the occasional exception of the wingers, their main objective is still to score goals.

The midfield is often a difficult position to play. Here again there are also multiple roles each player can maintain, including left mid, right mid, center mid, attacking mid and defensive mid.

The midfield contains the widest display of positions, and the role of the midfielder is a constantly changing one.

The left-mid and right-mid will usually remain on their respective sides of the field. These players are very similar to wingers, but their main role is to offer protection out on the width of the field and as well as support offensive plays.

Junior Christian Arocena, who plays center mid, prepares his next move during a Fall 2022 game. (Chris Hewey)

The center mid is typically a box-to-box player, meaning a player in the midfield who is effective both at the attacking end and the defensive end. Stamina is a crucial part in your game for being a central midfielder.

The attacking-mid can almost be considered a forward, but their defensive duties are needed from time to time as well. They usually are right behind the striker and their main priority is to create opportunities for the strikers by finding passes that can cut through the defense of the opposition.

Lastly comes the defensive-midfielders, who usually sit just in front of the defense and a little deeper than the left and right midfielders. This role requires strength and a lot of positional awareness. These players are usually very comfortable on the ball and can handle any pressure in their way. They can also cover other defenders and midfielders if they are up supporting the offense.

Now onto the defenders: center back, full back (left back, right back), and wing backs.

The center-back is a strong statured player. Their main job is to stop players such as the opposing striker from shooting on the goal. It is common to see two center-backs play on the pitch. They can either cover a specific portion of the field or cover a specific player. They usually are an aerial threat when attacking like going up for corner kicks or freekicks, but usually you’ll find them sitting back most of the time.

Right back Ben Hughes makes a key defensive play during the Fall 2022 season. (Chris Hewey)

The full-backs, also known as left-back and right-back, are the width of the defense. They protect any attacks from the opposing team’s wingers when they try to spread out wide. A lot of the time you will see the full backs going forward when attacking in order to add optional width to their team’s play. While some players of this position like to attack, their main objective is to always sprint back and defend.

The wingbacks are very similar to the full backs in the sense that they control the width of the defense. The difference is that you’ll only see this position busy when a team is playing with three center-backs and a narrow midfield. The wing-back is sort of a mixture between the winger and the full back and only those with really good stamina can pull this position off.

Last but not least, we have the goalkeeper position. The goalkeeper position, along with that of midfielders, is probably one of the hardest positions. Athletes in this position may be under looked in terms of ability.

The goalie is typically the only player that is allowed to touch the ball with their hands while on the field and during the game. Their sole purpose is to keep the ball from making it into the net. They always stay close to the goal to prevent the opposing team from scoring. They will usually not leave the area of the goal box (the lines that form a box closest to their own goal). This is because they may not touch the ball with their hands if they are outside of their goal box.