The TWO ONE: What makes a great winger?

'Caps rookies following in the footsteps of "Chalkie"

 

Have I mentioned how excited I am to watch the ‘Caps this season?

Well I have, but hey, now is the time for excitement, and this certainly looks to be a very entertaining team!

What continues to intrigue me the most about this side is our rookie wingers.

This was a position that I played for the ‘Caps many years ago, so I’m very interested to track the progress of Kekuta Manneh and Erik Hurtado.

WATCH: Manneh shows what he's got

I grew up watching my home team Manchester United, who for the most part have always used two wingers. When they were in full flow there was no better sight. They went right at the opponent’s fullbacks and looked to get dangerous crosses into the box for their strikers to finish.

So what does make a great winger?

Stick to the plan

First of all you, have to be patient. You spend a great deal of time holding your position out wide and relying on your teammates to get you the ball. This can be frustrating at times if you’re not getting involved in the match, and naturally you will want to start wandering inside to go look for the ball and try to get more involved.

Stay out wide, all the way out wide. That is how I got my nickname Chalkie.

Back in the day I was playing in a game for Oldham Athletic. I hadn’t seen the ball for ages, so I decided to leave my position on the wing and go hunt for the ball. It was not long before our manager Jimmy Frizzel screamed at me to get back out wide and put some chalk on my boots (the touch lines were marked with white chalk), which I promptly did. Hence my new nickname, which has stuck with me even until today.

WATCH: Dane Richards gets compared to the Legend

It’s not always about taking on defenders …

Having dribbling skills certainly is a plus for a winger, but it is not necessary (I was told by one fan I only had two moves).

A certain fellow named David Beckham was not known for his moves with the ball, but you would find it very hard to find a better crosser of the ball than Mr. Beckham. He would only need a yard of space to cross the ball or bend it around the defender.

Another similar player that had the same type of game was someone some of you longtime ‘Caps fans will remember as “the Silver Fox” Alan Hinton. He was not very tricky or fast, but he too would find that yard of space to whip in a dangerous cross for his strikers to attack.

… But speed and dribbling certainly help

Of course, if you do have dribbling skills that makes things very frightening for defenders. Cristiano Ronaldo was the king of the step-overs when he first came to play for Manchester United. There have been other wingers like Ryan Giggs (sorry another United player) who could do amazing things with the ball while running at full speed. These types of wing men would beat you inside or outside, or just twist you into the ground then run away from you.

WATCH: Giggs in his prime

If you have speed, then you can knock the ball past a defender and find a cross or make the runs into space and look for balls over the top of defenders to create breakaways. With or without the ball, these players with speed stretch defences and excite the crowd with their play.

No fear

There are different types of wingers, but one thing they have to have is courage. As a winger, you will be kicked because you have too much skill for the defender – sometimes by accident, but many times just to slow you down.

You also have to have a certain fearlessnesses. You can’t be afraid to take on one, two, maybe even three defenders at a time. Of course you may not get through, but if you do you’ve opened up the play and set your team up with a good chance to create a goal.

I am probably biased when I say that there’s no better sight than seeing teams that play with two wingers to open up the game and play attacking soccer.

And that’s why I am excited to see this year’s ‘Caps – and in particular Manneh and Hurtado. All the weapons we have will make this MLS season a very entertaining one.

Bring it on.