Skill players want the ball. Each touch is the opportunity to do magic. A little flick of the toe changes the path of the ball, splitting an opponent’s legs, and garner applause from the crowd. The differing attitudes between defenders and attackers are pretty clear.
With a stacked midfield and a lack of right back options, a few weeks ago Coach Chris Little looked to Antonee Burke-Gilroy to help out. Burke-Gilroy has the physical tools that the organization expects from a fullback – high motor, speed, fitness.
The former creative mid is now that and a right back. Antonee’s fine with that. More than fine. He’s happy with the shift.
“I like that I get more touches on the ball. The other week I got the most touches on the field for our team. Getting up and being a second winger with Shandon is good. I also like playing out there because it adds versatility to my resume saying that I can play right back and attacking midfield.”
In terms of touches, in only one of the past four matches has Burke-Gilroy seen less of the ball than he did as an attacking mid. The organization’s philosophy pushes the ball out wide, giving the responsibility of pace and creation to their outside backs at every level. In MLS that means Brad Smith, Joevin Jones, Kelvin Leerdam. With Tacoma Defiance that’s been Nick Hinds and Denso Ulysse, who recently made the Haiti U-23 Olympic Qualifying side.
Burke-Gilroy’s attacking quality and physique for the role were never in doubt. But could he defend?
His coach offered his thoughts:
“When it comes to defending it’s the nuances to the position – where do I need to start? Angles on the timing of the pass, positioning, responsibilities. It’s constantly introducing him to those situations so that he sees the picture and knows that if this is happening ‘I need to do this.’”
The Australian is learning all of this and more. If this is the next step in his career, he’s ready for whatever’s thrown at him.