A soccer sweeper provides the last line of outfield defense on a soccer team. A sweeper sits back 5 to 10 yards behind the other defenders to give herself a head start for any long balls over the top or to cover for teammates who get beaten off the dribble or by through runs.
A Star's Advice on Tackling
The soccer sweeper must possess good tackling ability and one-on-one defensive skills. Being the last line of defense, the sweeper has no cover if he gets beat. As a soccer sweeper, you should practice one-on-one defensive play and tackling. Adopt a defensive stance in front of an attacker and jostle him before attempting to tackle when you are sure you will win the ball. As a sweeper, if you dive into a tackle and miss, you have no cover, so patience and timing are crucial elements of your defending. Former U.S. international Marcelo Balboa advises that a defender should not tackle unless necessary. Balboa said the most important thing during defensive play is to contain the forward and prevent him from penetrating.
Talk to Your Teammates
The position of soccer sweeper allows you to see the entire game unfold in front of you. This places primary importance on the communication of the sweeper in a soccer team. The sweeper is responsible for letting the defenders and midfielders in front of her know of open players behind them or in blind spots. When playing sweeper you should constantly make teammates aware of open players behind them, or let them know if they are outnumbered and need help in their area. When communicating with a teammate, call loudly and early -- address your teammates by name to get their attention.
Anticipate What's Next
The soccer sweeper is a vital defensive position -- if he is beaten the opposing team can go clear through to goal. The sweeper must anticipate the intention of the attacking soccer team. When a midfielder has the ball, you should read her body language. If she is under no defensive pressure, look up to the forwards expect a through ball. Watch the runs of the forwards, and you will be able to see where the attack is headed. Reading the game like this will allow you to be a step quicker in your defensive play and cut attacks off before they develop into a threat. Sometimes a sweeper will need to go out wide to cut out through balls; when you do this, communicate with your stopper so she can fill in for you and not leave the team exposed centrally.