Read the other posts in this college soccer recruiting series on Defensive Center Midfielders, Goalkeepers, Center Backs, Outside Backs, Strikers, Wingers, and Attacking Center Midfielders.
“Center backs are the strength of the team,” states former D1 coach Michael Needham. Center backs, along with keepers and center midfielders, are responsible for keeping a clean sheet.
College coaches want to see how you break up play, how you buildup play with great passing, how you separate attackers from the ball, your mentality (which requires strong focus and awareness of the field), and whether you can basically eliminate the opposition’s striker.
“We used to track how many times the opposition’s #9 touched the ball,” stated Michael Needham. “If you are limiting the #9’s touches, you’re doing a good job.”
The key things you should include when sending your center back highlight video to college coaches
- You must be good in the air. When the ball is in the air, can you challenge the striker by jumping up for the header? College coaches want to see you get up in the air and to win a ball in traffic. Which factors can you show coaches in your soccer highlight video to prove you are good in the air (height, jumping, or heading?). Coaches want to see you hit the ball high, wide, and far away from your goal.
- Technical skills and an ability to read the game. Are you stepping when you should be stepping? Are you dropping when you should be dropping (when the pressure is off the ball)? Can you take control of the build-up (whether fast or slow) that follows after gaining possession of the ball? Can you get open to receive passes and make passes when under pressure?
- Leadership. You’re the spine of the team, so you have to be a leader and organizer, not just vocally but also by your actions. You have to be in constant contact with the fullbacks, goalkeeper, and central midfielders on the team. When you move from the back to the mid-field, are you taking the team out with you? Do you motion with your hands to make your left back and right back are not playing behind you? Are you moving in tandem with the fullbacks to constrict the space and prevent attacks?
- Quickness and agility. Center backs often encounter quick strikers close to the penalty area and must be able to keep up with their fast movements over mostly short-distances. While full backs have to demonstrate they can spring over long distances in the outside lane, center backs have to be quick over short distances.
- Bravery. Center backs must do anything they can to avoid the ball getting to the back of the net. This means they are more likely to have contact with the opposition.