- Last updated: September 4, 2022
Soccer is a very popular sport in the United States, but if you've never played it it can be confusing to follow. I've been in the game for years, so I forget that sometimes. But I got you covered.
Today I want to talk about defense and answer two critical questions. What are the 11 soccer defensive positions? And what are you doing? Rest assured you've come to the right place as all defensive positions are explained below.
what is the defense
In a football game there are two teams and at different times during the game they each have the opportunity to be on offense (the ball with the intention of scoring) and on defense (which prevent offense from scoring goals). But what exactly does the defense do and how does it do it?
What is the purpose of the defense?
The purpose of defense is to do everything in their power to prevent the offense from moving the football around the field and scoring (touchdown or field goal). How do you do that? By making plays designed to counteract the offensive plays.
Each team has a Defensive Coordinator (DC), the coach on the touchline or upstairs in the coaching box, who drafts and executes game calls for each down. Essentially, the DC is involved in a chess game on the soccer field with the offensive coordinator (OC) and head coach (HC) of the opposing soccer team.
The DC wants to make the right play call every time, so offense can't move the ball and has to punt and return the ball to defense so it can become offense.
While the DC's play call might seem like the perfect neutralizer for the OC's play call on paper, it won't always be successful. Why? Well, because the defensive players on the field are the ones who need to execute that play call perfectly for it to work. And I've seen how difficult that can be sometimes!
Let's talk more about these players.
What are the 11 defensive positions in soccer?
Just like offense, there are 11 players on defense. And the best way to think about these positions is to think of them as layers on the football field.
There are three levels (Defensive Line, Linebackers, and Defensive Secondary), and each level has specific responsibilities. And those responsibilities can, and usually are, different for each game.
If each plane performs its duties perfectly on a turn, the defense should succeed on that turn. However, if one of the levels fails to fulfill its task, or even a player who makes up one of the levels fails, disaster can ensue.
So not only is it important for the levels to work together, but you also want all players to work together in each level. The adage "You are only as strong as your weakest link" is never more true than it is on the soccer field - especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Let's learn more about these links.
line of defense
The first level of defense is the line of defense. These players are the frontline soldiers fighting in the trenches, and executing their objectives is crucial.
Together they focus on not letting the offensive line complete their blocks and stopping themBack racefrom making progress in a running play and, in the case of a passing play, pressuring and/or dismissing the quarterback.
There are 3 types of defensive line positions. The actual number of these players may vary from team to team or game to game depending on what type of formation is being played (i.e. 4-3 or 3-4 are the most common, with the first number referring to the number on defense linemen and the second number refers to the number of linebackers).
What are each of these positions responsible for? let's find out
grab your nose
The nose tackle (NT), also known as the nose guard (NG), is the anchor of the defensive line. He is usually the heaviest player on defense and generally positions himself directly over center or may be slightly offset onto one of the center's shoulders. At this point, I want the body to be as wide as possible!
Teams typically have at most one nose tackle on the field at any one time and may not be dependent on the formation being executed. His main goal is to clog things up mid-line and not waste space.
You'll often hear him referred to as a run stuffer or run stopper because he wants to make it difficult for offense to let the ball run between center and guard. In general, nose tackle doesn't have much of an impact in the passing game.
Defensive tackle (DT) is a mix of athleticism and size due to its dual responsibilities. Teams using DTs generally have two on the field at a time.
They are expected to wreak havoc on the offensive line in running plays, physically plugging the gaps between centers, guards and tackles to prevent a running back from getting through.
On passing plays, they must be athletic enough to push through or past offensive linemen or refine to put pressure on the quarterback and/or get a sack.
The Defensive End (DE) must have the rare combination of size and speed to be successful. Some of your best athletes and most dominant players on defense play this position.
Teams using DEs generally have two on the field at a time. These players have to be great because they're constantly battling with the most prominent players on offense - tackles andtight ends.
On running plays, they are responsible for diagnosing where the running back is heading to make the tackle or, more importantly, to contain the outside of the line.
That means making sure no ball carrier gets between them and the touchline, as that's where the biggest run wins are usually made. They want to force the runner back inside where another defensive lineman or other layers of defense are available to make the tackle.
In passing situations, they need the skill and speed to get around or get through tackles and tight ends to the quarterback, ideally for a sack.
As of 2022, the 2 most sacked NFL players in league history played defensive end, so it's an important position on defense, especially in the passing game. I can't stress this enough!
But what about the next shift?
Layer #2 are the Linebackers (LBs). These guys aren't usually as big as the defensive lineman as speed becomes more critical, especially for an outside linebacker.
Linebackers must be versatile as they are asked to be run stoppers, be pass rushers, and participate in pass coverage. So you need the optimal combination of size and speed to be successful.
They also need a high football IQ as they are generally responsible for making adjustments once they see the offense lineup.
And depending on what formation a defense uses, you may hear other names: Middle Linebacker (MLB), Strong Side Linebacker, and/or Weak Side Linebacker, which refers to the side of the field they line up on.
But the easiest way to make a distinction is inside linebacker and outside linebacker.
An inside linebacker (ILB) is so called because they line up on the inside of the formation behind the nose tackle or defensive tackles. Your main area of play is the center of the field.
They tend to be more involved in run support as the running back comes through the first layer of defense, but they may also be asked to help with pass coverage down the field or potentially bring down the quarterback when a blitz is called Good.
Depending on the formation, the teams use one or two inside linebackers.
After reading the last section, you can probably guess why an Outside Linebacker (OLB) gets his name - that's right, because he lines up outside of the formation, closer to the defensive ends.
Sometimes they even start on the line of scrimmage outside the defensive end. But their main territory will be from the edge of center field to the sidelines.
They have to be very athletic because they have to cover a wide field.
You need to be able to move laterally to make an attack on a running back that's breaking out, or maybe to cover a pass catcher coming across midfield or going down.
They also need to move up and down to either rush the quarterback when a blitz is called or to cover awide receiveror tight end in certain coverages.
Most teams use two outside linebackers, which can decrease with certain pass coverage formations.
But what happens when a running back or wide receiver gets past the first two layers of defense? Then layer 3 comes into play.
Now we come to the last layer of defense. These guys are generally the smallest players on defense because their focus is on speed.
They are sometimes called upon to be physical as as a 3rd level of defense they may need to attack ball carriers who made it past the first 2 levels. Or they may have to struggle a bit with tight ends and wide receivers in pass coverage while trying to defend the ball.
But their main focus will be running up with offense pass catchers and covering them and trying to prevent them from catching the ball in man-to-man or zone covers.
Cornerback and safety are the primary names used for the defensive secondary. However, you may also hear terms like nickelback and dimeback, which refer to additional cornerbacks and safeties used in various pass coverages.
A cornerback (CB) is designed for pass coverage, their primary job. They usually line up at or near the line of scrimmage from outside center of the field to the touchline, depending on where the offense's pass catchers are lined up.
They spend a lot of time running with wide receivers and making sure whoever they're covering doesn't catch the ball.
They also need to make tackles in running support, and if their pass catcher catches the ball, that's not necessarily their forte.
Occasionally, they'll be asked to blitz the quarterback to try to disrupt a pass play or get a sack. Generally, teams use 2 cornerbacks, but this can increase with certain pass coverages.
A security (S) is the true last line of defense. Their main job is to make sure nothing gets in their way - runner or pass catcher.
They must have the previously mentioned combination of size and speed as they will be called upon to throw touchdown-saving tackles on running backs and cover wide receivers and tight ends on passing plays.
They are also asked to occasionally blitz to cause havoc with the quarterback and/or get a sack. I also want a guy who can see the field clearly and diagnose plays before they happen!
Most teams have 2 safeties on the field (Free Safety (FS) and Strong Safety (SS), determined by the side of the field they line up on), but this number can increase at certain pass coverages.
frequently asked Questions
What is a sack in soccer?
A sack occurs when a defensive player tackles the quarterback for a loss of yards in a game before the quarterback can get rid of the ball.
What is an interception in football?
An interception occurs when a defender catches a pass intended for an offensive player.
What is a fumble in football?
A fumble occurs when an offensive player loses possession of the ball and a defensive player regains and gains control of the ball.
How does a defensive player score a safety?
A defender scores a safety when that player attacks an offensive player who has possession of the ball in the offensive player's end zone or forces the offensive player out in his end zone. The result of the game is that the defensive team gets 2 points and possession for the next game series.
Can a defensive player score in soccer?
Yes, a defensive player can score by intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown, recovering a fumble either in the end zone or on the field and running to the end zone, or scoring a safety.
4. & 10
Now that you know soccer defensive positions, I hope you have a better understanding of what skills are required for each of them and how to beat them when you're on the other side of the team.
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Brad Smith has been coaching high school football in Florida for 6 years. He and his wife have three beautiful children who he hopes will become the first Jaguars to win a Superbowl. Aside from soccer, Brad loves American literature, parenting, gardening and house remodeling.