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Flank Midfielders: 120-Yard Responsibility

December 31, 2003 09:00 PM
Kristine Lilly is one of the best flank midfielders the world has ever seen. Her work-rate, fitness, dueler's mentality, tactical awareness and overall consistency are virtually unparalleled. Over the years, Kristine has developed a great understanding of her position"
"Playing on the outside, you have to be patient and wait for the ball," she says. "You can't go into the middle just because your teammates aren't passing it outside to you. But when I played other positions, I realized how hard it is to get it outside sometimes. When Julie Foudy started playing on the flank, she couldn't believe she never got the ball. Then she realized when she was in the middle, she was the one who was supposed to be putting it out there."
Kristine explains the perfect midfield mentality of combining patience with the desire to get forward. "I realize I have a role," she says. "I have to be patient and wait for the ball, and when I get the ball, I want to make something happen. If I get half a chance to take someone on or do a quick one-two to get down the flank, I certainly will."
Shannon MacMillan learned to play flank midfielder prior to the 1996 Olympics. She understands the physical demands of the flank midfielders, as well as the offensive and defensive responsibilities of the position.
"We have a 120-yard role," Shannon says. "We have to get up on attack and get crosses off, or we might have to be at the end of a cross from the opposite flank. But we must always get back on defense. If we don't we are going to put our defense in trouble. So when we don't have the ball we must be balanced back a bid. The decisions then become how far back. You are not always even with the backs, but if out defensive line is stretched then we may need to get back to provide cover, cleaning up anything that goes through. Playing flank midfield you're all over the place. You are not necessarily a straight up-and-down player."
Both Shannon and Kristine can be considered goal-scorers. They entered 1999 with 75 international goals between them.
"Scoring is for everybody," says Shannon. "Midfielders ten to set up more, but they certainly can be goal-scorers. When I see Lil breaking in, I'm busting to get to the far post for anything that might come skipping over. The whole team carries the burden of scoring."
Tactical aspects of flank midfielders
1. When to run to get behind a defense
2. When to withdraw back to the ball
3. Recognizing opportunity to initiate the change of point of attack
4. Recycling the ball, avoiding the "not on" syndrome
5. Quality flank service
6. Getting into the box
7. Closing, providing cover
8. When to balance on defense and how far



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