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Toni Datković Has An Attribute Very Few Real Salt Lake Center Backs Have Had Before

Photo courtesy: Real Salt Lake

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Newly signed Croatian center back Toni Datković has an attribute that very few center backs for Real Salt Lake have had before, he is left-footed.

The Importance Of Left Footers At CB

Now, most soccer fans will likely tell you that the preferred foot of a center-back does not mean anything. Take Nedum Onuoha as an example, Onuoha was a right-footed center back who played alongside other right-footed center backs in Justen Glad or Marcelo Silva and the duo did just fine. Onuoha played at the left-center back position which also solidifies that the preferred foot of a center back is not pivotal.

However, other soccer pundits and experts will argue otherwise. A left-footed center back offers fluidity and the ability to build out of the back at a faster pace.

“I think the obvious answer would be that you prefer lefties on the left [center-back],” RSL manager Freddy Juarez said. “We were definately looking for a left-center back when looking to add a center back and it was hard to find, we lucked out finding a left-footed center back, for sure.”

Fluidity In Ball Movement

Here is why, when the ball is being knocked around the back-line, a right-footed center back playing at the left-center back position will have to open his hips, turn towards the left-back and play a ball that curls into the run of the left-back. Whereas, if the left center back was left-footed, he would receive the ball and play a through ball to his left-back that he could run on to.

“There are benefits like natural body positioning, it is easier to connect him with a higher outside back. When it is a shallow outside back it really doesn’t matter but when it is a higher outside back that is between the lines a natural leftie gives you that natural curl around the initial line of pressure,” Juarez added.

It may seem insignificant, but the difference between a winning team and a losing team at the professional level can often be found within the details. Ball movement is an integral part of the game of soccer and good teams that win often move the soccer ball smoothly and quickly.

The addition of Datković will only aid in RSL’s quest.

Juarez wants his full-backs to involve themselves in the attack. He asks them to be aggressive and get higher up the field regardless of who is playing at the fullback position.

Andrew Brody, in particular, bases a large part of his game around the ability to dribble at defenders. He plays high up the pitch. Datković’s left foot will only further promote Brody to seek higher ground as the curve of his left-footed passes will evaid potential interceptions from opposing players. A right footed center back is more likely to have his pass cut off, simply due to the curve of the ball.

The last left-footed center back to play significant minutes was Chris Schuler, who survived eight seasons in Major League Soccer, seven of which came with RSL.

It remains unknown when Datković will debut for RSL. However, after arriving in Utah just over a week ago he has passed his medical tests and quarantine period and is now training with the main group.

He will be available for selection for the upcoming road fixture against LAFC on Saturday, July 17. Kickoff is slated for 8:30 p.m. and can be streamed for free via the KSL Sports & KSL 5 TV apps or on KSL Sports dot com.