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  • Writer's pictureRyan Johnson

Lone Striker

A lot of people thought that I was always a big strong traditional number 9 lone striker. But that is far from the truth. I did not start playing as a lone striker consistently until I joined Oster IF in Sweden then later for the San Jose Earthquakes under Head coach Frank Yallop. I grew up playing as a left winger that enjoyed running at defenders using all my tricks and speed to create chances from the left wing. Looking back on my career I would have never thought I would have ever played as a lone striker and have success at it, but being versatile and playing multiple positions is not as easy as it looks.

A lone striker has one of the most important jobs and often times one of the most difficult jobs on the pitch. The casual and uneducated football fan would think the lone striker has one job and one job only which is scoring goals. The lone striker is much more important than that. A lone strikers first job is to hold up the ball and provide an outlet when your team is under pressure. Without that outlet it is nearly impossible to get your team higher up the field and into scoring opportunities. A lone striker must stay centrally high up the field, to stretch the defense and keep them honest. If the lone striker doesn't stay as high as possible the opponent can squeeze your defense and keep your team in their own half with ease.

Defensively, the job of the lone striker is force the opponents defense to one side of the field to make the play predictable for your teammates behind you to press and close down their markers. One of the toughest and most frustrating part of playing as a lone striker is the system often leaves you stranded alone upfront waiting for your team to support you in the attack. It can feel as if you are stranded on an island alone, feeling disconnected from the flow of the game and from your team. You are constantly battling with at least two central defenders. One in front and one behind you. There are often long gaps in time where you don't get a touch of the ball which can make you drift out of the game mentally.

What happens to lone strikers when they don't get enough touches on the ball? They drift deeper into the midfield searching to get touches on the ball but this is counter productive for lone strikers because you are the player that keeps the defense honest which leaves you out of position. The game becomes a real chess match, you obsess with how to get touches on the ball without running yourself into the ground trying to find the game.

I had to learn how to play with my back to goal. As a natural winger the game completely changes because your viewing the game from a different angle and position. Playing with your back to goal is not easy and takes tones of patients. You have to be able to hold off the strongest members of the opponents team which normally is the center backs while making sure you don't give up possession to help your team up the field. Lastly you have responsibility as a goal scorer to be the first player into the 18 yard box to score goals. If you don't work hard to get into the box your wingers won't have anyone to cross to.

Lets not forget all the pressure is one you to score for your team. If you don't score best believe your coach will find someone else who will.


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