What is a Stopper in Soccer?
What is a stopper in soccer? A stopper is a defensive position in soccer and assists the defense in preventing goals by the opposition.
More so in the profession-level, the stopper position has slowly been fading away from the game of soccer. The stopper can be interchanged as the center-back on a soccer team.
The stopper’s role is to tackle and prevent the offense from going forward.
The stoppers are typically physical players that are not afraid of contact by the attacking players.
The Role of the Stopper
In its simplest sense, the primary role of a stopper in soccer is to prevent the opposing team from scoring by marking and tackling the opposing team’s forward players and disrupting their attacking play.
Some of the specific responsibilities of a stopper include:
- Marking and tracking the opposing team’s attacking players and ensuring they do not get behind the defense.
- Winning aerial duels and anticipating passes over the midfielders and crosses from the wingers.
- Communicating with the other defenders and organizing the defense, especially when dealing with counterattacks.
- Clearing the ball out of danger when the opposing team is attacking.
- Distributing the ball to the midfielders or forwards when the team is in possession.
- Being a safety for the goalkeeper.
Traits of a Great Stopper
With their many roles, they need to hold the following traits:
Brave and Fearless
The stopper is expected to play as the disruptor to the offense’s strikers.
They are expected to guard the strikers closely and not give them any space to score a goal.
The stopper needs to be fearless and willing to put their bodies on the line.
Strong and Intimidating
The stopper is often a strong and physical player. They need to be aggressive and contest every 50/50 ball that comes their way.
They should be shielding the offense on slow moving balls towards the goal-line.
They should also be going shoulder-to-shoulder with the opposition to try to win back the ball or make it a difficult shot on goal.
Even though the stopper should be aggressive, they should also be careful not to commit “stupid” fouls that would lead to penalty shots.
This is why they also need to have a lot of discipline and self-control. A stopper should not get too anxious when an attacker gets past them. They need to be able to recover quickly.
They have to avoid blindly chasing after the ball, as this would lead to creating openings that the attackers can exploit.
Field Awareness and Communications Skills
Knowing where you are on the field can seem so obvious but it’s very important especially at the stopper position. In most cases, a stopper will be the last line of defense before the goalie.
Stoppers need to know where the ball is all the time and have the awareness of off-ball attackers coming in.
The stopper must also be able to communicate with the goalkeeper, other defenders and midfielders. They can be the difference between a goal scored by the offense or a counter-attack.
What Happened to Stoppers in Professional Soccer?
Stoppers are no longer used in the professional soccer scene because soccer strategies have evolved quite a lot in the past decade.
Historically, teams would rely on their stoppers to prevent goal attempts.
However, now modern strategies and soccer formations focus more on regaining ball possession, which means strikers and midfielders have taken hybrid roles.
Defensive positions no longer need to wait for the offense to cross the centerline before their defense “activates”.
For youth soccer leagues, having a dedicated stopper position is a great way to learn defense and also stop the attack if the opposition is aggressive on offense. This will teach the fundamentals about positioning, making tackles and communicating.