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Claire Falknor is among the Gators' five outside backs who have posted 12 assists combined this season.

Thursday October 17, 2013Inside Gator Soccer's Outside Backs

Gainesville, Fla.

Claire Falknor is among the Gators' five outside backs who have posted 12 assists combined this season.

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

As an outside back on the Florida soccer team, sophomore Lindsey Cooper plays a pivotal role as one of the last lines of defense. That’s her responsibility. She understands it, embraces it. 

 

Friday’s Match Info:

No. 8 Florida (10-3-1, 4-2 SEC) versus No. 23 Kentucky (11-2-1, 5-1 SEC)

 

Date & Time: Oct.18, 2013 @ 6:30 p.m. ET

Site: James G. Pressly Stadium (4,500) – gates open at 5:30 p.m.

Television: live on SUN Sports (Gainesville/Ocala Cox cable channel 48 or 1048).

 

Radio: GatorZone

 

Streaming video: live on ESPN3

 

Internet: live stats and audio for UF-UK match available on www.GatorZone.com

 

Admission:  free

 

Promotions: Pink Kicking for the Cure Hat - first 500 fans in attendance will receive a pink Kicking for the Cure hat in support of Breast Cancer Awareness; Grab a T-Shirtpink t-shirts will be thrown into crowd at points of match; Feed the Florida Students – first 150 students get free pizza; Gator Autographs -  Gators will autograph team poster post-match

 

For a complete list of match promotions, please visit the Gator Promotions page.

But as an outside back on the Florida soccer team, Cooper also has an important role on the offensive end. Coach Becky Burleigh’s attacking system not only requires outside backs to join in the assault, but their place on the wings is paramount and spreading the field and creating the width the Gators need to execute against opposing defenses. 

 

If this sounds confusing, maybe even a tad dangerous -- what happens when there’s a turnover and a defensive player is in a forward offensive position? -- understand that Cooper and the rest of the Florida outside backs, well, understand. 

 

And embrace it. 

 

“At any moment, you better be ready to haul,” Cooper said. 

 

Theirs is a position that plays 100 yards, up and down the sidelines. That’s why Florida is well stocked at outside back, with each player likely to go 40-60 minutes at a very high speed while covering a whole bunch of ground. 

 

“Most outside backs just defend, and that’s pretty much all they do,” said Burleigh, whose 8th-ranked Gators (10-3-1, 4-2) play a pair of matches at home this weekend against ranked teams -- Friday night vs. No. 23 Kentucky (11-2-1, 5-1); Sunday vs. No. 25 LSU (9-3-2, 5-0-1) -- they are chasing in the Southeastern Conference standings. “It’s a very demanding position because they’re attacking and playmaking so deep in the opponent’s end, they need to be able to recover a long distance.” 

 

So Burleigh and her staff seek players who combine a mental and physical toughness to take on those demands. 

 

Players like Claire Falknor, the sophomore from Dayton, Ohio. 

 

“I have a dominant personality. I’m very goal-oriented and I like challenges. So this position is perfect for me,” Falknor said. “It’s a really unique position because you’re playing both offense and defense, so it’s a lot of running. Sometimes I’m exhausted, but I love the challenge.” 

 

So do Lauren Silver and Tessa Andujar, the two shortest players on the team at 5 feet, 2 inches and Taylor Travis, who stands at 5-3. To play outside back for the Gators, it’s better to have heart than height. 

 

And a good soccer head. 

 

“You need to be smart, need to be technical and know when you can go into attack, because you can’t do it every single time,” Silver said. “What I really like about it, though, is the challenge of playing defense really, really hard, then suddenly having to switch that mentality to offense. That’s not easy; going hard, hard, hard, then having to calm down and execute on offense.” 

 

Added Andujar: “You pretty much need to enjoy running.”

 

UF’s base alignment is a 4-2-3-1, with the outside and center backs making up the “4s.” Lots of teams have four in the backline, but few ask the outsides to fly up and down the outside alleys the way the Gators have to. 

 

Example: After a save, when the Florida keeper blasts a ball from the box, the outside backs need to be across midfield and into position to play the ball into their “3s” (like Havana Solaun, Annie Speese and Pamela Begič) and “1s” (like freshman Savannah Jordan, tied for sixth in the nation with 13 goals). 

 

“We’re effective because we usually have extra numbers,” Falknor said. “Our outside backs get forward and provide crosses and sometimes that means having one-v-one on someone or offering a cross for forwards to get in the box and create opportunities.” 

 

Through 14 games, more than one-third of UF’s 34 assists have come from outside backs. Of the position’s 12 assists, Silver has five, Cooper has three. 

 

“You have to be careful picking and choosing when you want to go on the attack,” Cooper said. “It may depend on how many forwards [the opponent is] leaving up. The ball can be taken away at any time, which means you have to get back as fast as you can.” 

 

The tradeoff is an odd-man rush and a goalkeeper with little or no help while her defenders -- including those outside backs -- are in recovery. 

 

It’s just part of the deal because it’s the aggressive nature of how the Gators play. 

 

“It sounds risky,” UF associate head coach Vic Campbell said. “But we’re pretty good at it.” 

 

 

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