Knowing how to play the stopper position in soccer is extremely important, as the stopper is perhaps the most important defensive position on the field (the goalie is not included). The stopper is also commonly known as the "center fullback" and, as the name indicates, he or she will play in the middle on defense and adjust accordingly as the ball is moved towards the goal during the opposing team's attack. The stopper is often looked to for leadership qualities not only by the other defensive players, but by the team as a whole. By following a few simple steps you can understand how to play the stopper position in soccer.
- Stay back.The stopper should be the last line of defense before the goalkeeper. The stopper anchors the defense and usually gives the dictation or cue to the other defenders to "hold a line" in order to draw an opposing striker or other attacking player offsides, by abruptly moving forward. The stopper should never be out of position because he does not typically join the attack unless specifically a part of a corner kick or free kick. In that instance the left and right fullbacks will pinch in to cover the ground given up. However, after the kick, the stopper should immediately return to the back line.
- Be aggressive. Stoppers are relied upon for their aggression as a defensive leader. Since the stopper is in the center of the field, he experiences the opposing team's attack from various directions and has to be able to read the attack and get a jump on the next move. If a ball is driven into the center, the stopper needs to know when to attack the ball immediately and drive it out of the defensive end. The stopper has to take care of 50/50 balls that are in the open and make sure they do not lead to an attack by the opposing team. The stopper will generally take on the most forward attacker on the opposing team and will need to be able to stop him or her in a one on one battle. This is another reason why the stopper position is so vital to the defense.
- Be patient. The difficulty of the stopper position is the fact that the stopper has to know how to balance aggression and patience. Because the stopper is the last line of defense he or she will be able to see the rest of the field as well as any attacks developing just as fully as the goalkeeper. The stopper cannot foolishly jump at a ball all the time, he or she needs to be aware of the location of all the attack players to judge whether or not the attack should be allowed to develop in order to better counter it with defense. The judgment responsibilities of a stopper are why they are usually looked to for general leadership on a soccer team.
- Be vocal. The stopper position is usually a position of leadership, so this requires the stopper to be especially vocal on the soccer field. He or she needs to inform the other fullbacks of when to pull up in order to draw the attack offsides. The stopper also needs to guide the fullbacks on when to be patient and allow the offensive player space in order to better counter the attack. The stopper can also call out to other offensive players if he sees the defense closing in while the ball is in the midfield area.
Even though the stopper remains on the back line of the defense, the position is tied into many of the other positions on the field and many other facets of the game. The stopper not only controls the defense on a soccer team, but he or she can also dictate how the counter attack develops. It is an extremely important position that requires not only skill, but extra discipline, strength, aggression and leadership.