When Indiana left back Andrew Gutman joined our soccer podcast last February, he explained that his favorite player was Marcelo, Real Madrid’s left back.
When looking at Marcelo, he is a player who, much like Gutman, gets up and down the flanks and joins the attack quite often. It shouldn’t come as a coincidence that this is a very similar philosophy that the Hoosiers like to use. More times than not, either Gutman or right back Rece Buckmaster can be seen aiding an attack from wide positions.
It’s not every day that a team has eight combined goals from its starting full backs. But for Indiana, it’s how they play and they do it with quite a bit of success. It’s even something they look for on the recruiting trail.
“We like to keep our wide guys a little more tucked in to prevent counterattacks and to allow our wide backs to get up the flanks,” IU assistant coach Kevin Robson said. “We actively look for that in recruiting, for our wide backs to join our attack, as we like to be on the front foot… That’s definitely a philosophy and a way we like to recruit with our wide backs and getting them up and down and having them be a big part of our attack.”
When looking at Gutman, he is a player who came up through the Chicago Fire academy as a forward. The reason for him switching to left back was basically because it was a vacant position. He learned that position while sitting out for the better part of a year, and is now one of the best left back’s in the country.
But it’s no coincidence that IU liked that when recruiting him. He currently leads the team with six goals and is a major part of IU’s attack. However, with being a defender, the first task is to obviously be a defender first. The attacking part comes with instincts.
“Any time I can get into the attack I want to do it,” Gutman said.
As for Buckmaster, he has plenty of experience playing the midfield. It felt like at times last season, IU was almost reluctant to play him at right back when they had a healthy Jordan Kleyn because of what he provided in the center of the pitch for the Hoosiers.
Any time I can get into the attack I want to do it
But when Gutman or Buckmaster join the attack, a gap becomes vacant on the back line. That’s where communication and experience playing with teammates is so crucial. It’s also why midfielders Frankie Moore and Jeremiah Gutjahr play such vital roles on this team.
The above photo is a great example. IU has complete control of the game in this situation. As you can see, both full backs are completely out of the picture. They are both in advanced positions up the flanks. The two center backs are the deepest players while Gutjahr has slid back to provide cover for a potential counterattack if Buckmaster and Gutman can’t recover in time.
Gutman did explain that it doesn’t act like a three center back look because IU coach Todd Yeagley doesn’t want both going up often at the same time. It stays a four-back formation. (IU usually sets up in some form of a 4-3-3).
In the video below, you can see the whole attack play out as IU earns a corner out of this situation. The play is solely on the left side in this situation and it’s Gutman making a run into the box to earn the corner kick.
Then on Sunday vs. Penn State, the left back and right back connection worked for a goal. Gutman was out due to precautionary reasons with an injury picked up against Northwestern. Therefore Spencer Glass slotted in at left back. Still, the same philosophy applied.
Glass found himself with plenty of space to work on the left flank. He sent a big cross across the 18-yard box and found Buckmaster who made the perfect run at the perfect time. All he had to do was keep his header on frame, which he did.
— Indiana Men’s Soccer (@IndianaMSOC) September 30, 2018
“That’s something we encourage our guys to do,” Yeagley said. “I love Rico’s commitment – it’s all about knowing your teammate’s strengths and knowing the cues. When Spencer gets that space and has the ability and the runs are there, Rico knows to go if it’s available.”
At times this season, Glass has slid back to left back with Gutman playing a more advanced position. Yeagley says there aren’t a ton of similarities between the two, but recognizes that his team does a good job picking up on the tendencies of both depending on what position they are in.
There are also times that if both full backs are in advanced positions, IU could have an equal number of players both ahead of and behind the ball. There’s also another wrinkle when just one full back moves up the pitch. The video below shows Manchester City’s tactics with their full backs. There are definitely some similarities between the two.
As the season progresses, look for this to happen more and more. It’s a unique advantage that IU has. The experience of Gutman and Buckmaster both playing a bit higher up the pitch before coming to IU certainly helps.
Gutman has six goals, while Buckmaster has scored twice. If they keep up this goal scoring, Gutman might think about reverting back to his early academy days and become a more of a wing back than a true left back.
“I’d definitely rather play three in the back and have me be more of a wing back,” Gutman said.