How to be a more complete Center Forward - Armchair Analyst

As you can see from the video at the top of this page, the role of the center forward has evolved a bunch over the past couple of decades. Poachers aren't exactly a dying breed, but they're not a hot commodity either. Managers have (justifiably IMO) become enamored with the play of all-around No. 9s like Fanendo Adi, Charlie Davies and -- obviously -- Didier Drogba.


Last year in MLS, until Drogba's arrival there was nobody better in that role than Columbus Crew SC's Kei Kamara. He's a dominant physical presence who uses his underrated technical skills to hold up the ball, hold off defenders and complete passes. He is a smart and tireless defensive presence, both on set pieces and in terms of shaping opposing distribution. He is a modern No. 9.


He is also a complete throwback to the good old days:

GOAL: Kei Kamara heads in an early one to ignite the crowd

This is a low-percentage run, because defenders are taught first and foremost to protect that near post. But it's also a run good forwards make 80% of the time, because as long as they're getting to that spot the defense has to A) react and B) respect the threat. By making the defense prioritize that area, both the both the back post and the area at the top of the box become a little more vacant and a little more inviting for on-rushing attacking midfielders. That's a feature of the 4-2-3-1 and the 4-3-3, not a bug.


Even great defenders -- like Laurent Ciman -- will get burned if they don't stick with their No. 9 at the near post, and thus that run produces the occasional goal. But more important is what it does to the shape of the field and the way it opens spots in the attacking third.


No matter how much the game changes in the coming years, fundamentally altering the defense's positioning with that near-post run will always apply. So don't expect much different from Kamara or Crew SC in 2016.


Author's Note


This is the 10th in a daily series counting down to to the MLS regular season first kick on March 6. I'm using Paul Carr's tweets (with his blessing) to examine some of the bigger storylines to follow in the upcoming season.