How to Play Outside Back in Soccer

Goalie, midfielder, sweeper and forward are often the first player positions people think of when it comes to the game of soccer. However, there is another position – outside back – that is just as important to the game.

Learning how to play the outside back position in soccer will make you a valuable asset to your team. Continue reading to learn more about this position and to discover what types of skills are needed in order to be a good outside back.

What is an Outside Back?

Players in this position must be able to patrol and defend large areas of the field, usually the outside edges of the pitch, against the opposing team’s offense. Their main goal is to keep the ball as far away as possible from their own goal. This is done by challenging the opposition, successfully gaining control of the ball and sending it up field to the team’s goal scorers or taking a shot on goal.

Technically, an outside back is considered to be part of a team’s defense. However, because the position requires the player to often play further up the field, an outside back can also play as part of a team’s offense. When playing as part of the offense, the outside back helps with turnovers, adds additional pressure to the opposing team, pass the ball to goal scorers or even score a goal.

What Skills Does an Outside Back Need?

A good outside back has exceptional defensive and offensive skills. Some of the skills that are needed to play this position include:

  • Strong 1 v 1 defender – know how to challenge and obtain possession of the ball from the opposing team
  • Confident ball handling skills – be able to quickly assess situations on the field, problem solve and know exactly how to execute the shot or pass to get the ball where you need it to go
  • Quick on your feet – outside backs often spend much of the game covering large areas of the field. A good outside back will have the stamina and endurance to spend 90 minutes sprinting these long distances.
  • Strong shooting skills – outside backs that possess strong shooting skills can improve a team’s chance to score as they can take advantage of any opportunity they have to score
  • Be able to quickly “fill in” for different positions – an outside back has the ability to notice when a player, such as a center back or winger, is out of position. The outside back can either confidently direct the player back into position or fill in for them until they return to their position

Starting Out Playing as an Outside Back

Players who are just starting out as an outside back should focus on developing their defensive skills. That doesn’t mean that they should ignore developing other skills, but the first skills to perfect are ones that help with a team’s defense. Once you develop the defensive skills, you can work on various offensive skills.

Some skills you will want to work on include:

  • Taking throw-ins – click here to read our previous articles on throw-ins.
  • Learning how to properly challenge offensive players from the opposing team – learn how to challenge and gain possession of the ball from offensive players on the other team
  • Problem solving so you know exactly where to be on the field so that you can minimize the opposing team’s chance of pushing the ball forward and scoring
  • Learning how to intercept the opposing team’s cross passes to each other
  • Perfecting the quick, one-touch pass – once you gain possession of the ball you will want to quickly get it away from the opposing team and send it up to the team’s goal scorers. The best way to do this is to perfect your ability to perform quick one-touch passes.
  • Conditioning – focus on developing your stamina and endurance. Focus on learning how to pace yourself so you are constantly in motion for 90 minutes. Also focus on having the ability to quickly sprint up and down the field at-will.
  • Learn all positions on the field – an outside back will need to quickly step into another players position in order to keep the team’s defensive shape. Learn all the positions on the field so during a game you can quickly identify if another player is out of position and you can step in and provide coverage.

Teams need good outside backs. Taking the time to learn how to play this position and play it well will make you a valuable player for almost any team.