Following Joseph Greenspan’s impressive four-year college career at the U.S. Naval Academy, the Colorado Rapids drafted the 6’6” defender in the 2nd Round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. Greenspan officially joined the Rapids in June after receiving permission from the Navy to temporarily forego his service duties, and quickly earned his first two MLS starts against Orlando City FC and Sporting KC. In both games, Greenspan, a towering center back in college, had to adjust to life as an outside back at the professional level, playing against some of the top attacking talent in the league. Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni said that he had confidence in Greenspan’s ability to adapt to the new position. “I talked to Joe quite a bit,” Mastroeni said. “He’s obviously dynamic on set pieces. Defensively, one-v-one he’s pretty good, so there’s a lot of good characteristics to put him in that position.” Nevertheless, Greenspan struggled at times during those games – both of which were 2-0 losses – including a moment in the second half against Orlando when he was unable to contain the speed of Carlos Rivas, who assisted on Orlando’s opening goal. Despite the challenges, Greenspan pulled some valuable lessons from his first two professional games. “I learned I could improve my closing-down speed in cutting down angles for guys,” he said. “If I could’ve angled my body better I could have forced Rivas inside…The coaches gave me a decent bit of instruction during training and before and after matches. It was a bit different because all of my tendencies are as a center back. It’s a bit of an adjustment, but I thought I did a decent job for never playing there before in MLS matches.”
The idea of playing in a different position can be daunting for many players, who might be uncomfortable with unfamiliar responsibilities, or feel pressure from the expectations to perform well. However, being asked to play in a new position doesn’t have to be a source of fear, but should instead be viewed as an opportunity to expand your game. Gaining experience in a new position is a great way to increase your versatility on the field, and improve your ability and understanding of the game as an all-around player. As with any type of adversity you may face, playing in a new position requires focusing on what you can control. Before stepping into that role, reflect on your individual strengths as a player – the parts of your game that have made you effective. Consider how those strengths can help you fulfill the responsibilities of a new position. For example, if you are a striker who is asked to play on the backline, think about how some of your attacking attributes (e.g., speed, movement off the ball, etc.) can help you have success in a defensive role. And, regardless of your position, there are parts of your game that are always under your control, including your attitude, your communication, and your hard work. Also, recognize that, by putting you in a new position, your coach is demonstrating confidence and belief in your ability to play there. Finally, while some players are easily critical of their performance after stepping into a new role, the process of evaluating your performance should not change. Be objective about your play, and identify specific aspects of your performance that allowed you to have success, and specific ways in which you can improve. Don’t be afraid to seek out feedback from coaches and teammates on how you can better yourself in your new position, and then incorporate that feedback into your training. At 22 years old, Greenspan potentially has a long career ahead of him, a career that will be successful as long as he maintains his adaptability and commitment to learning as a player.
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