It’s a tale of parallels, but it’s not about geometry.
UCLA women’s soccer fullback duo of junior Caprice Dydasco and freshman Gabbi Miranda play on parallel wings with parallel roles on the team when it comes to corners, and appropriately enough, they both had parallel journeys to taking on the fullback position.
Dydasco and Miranda complete the stalwart Bruin defensive quartet alongside junior defenders Abby Dahlkemper and Megan Oyster, who play center back. The four have had a hand in earning the Bruins eight clean sheets thus far in the 12 games played. Although fullbacks are defenders by definition, their role extends further than just protecting the goal.
“The wide backs bring not only defense, but they attack and try and get in line … it’s really hard work for fullbacks, because they have to work up and down the sidelines because they not only have defensive roles, but they have important attacking roles as well,” Dahlkemper said of her defensive compatriots’ responsibilities.
Because of the expansive nature of the role, the fullback is one of the more physically demanding positions in soccer. The player is expected to have the speed to not only match up with opposing wingers – who tend to be one of the faster players on the roster – while also using that pace to contribute on offense. And because they spend a lot of time sprinting up and down the wings, good endurance is also key for their game.
On offense, Dydasco has shown time and time again that her feet can also be utilized as deadly weapons. Whether it’s a step over or a cut back, she’s displayed a wide variety of maneuvers that have helped her beat the opposing defender one-on-one to create space for a dangerous cross into the penalty box.
“I grew up doing fast footwork every Saturday morning, so I love taking on defenders and doing moves,” said Dydasco about the origins of her offensive repertoire.
Though both Miranda and Dydasco have shown their capabilities upfront by creating chances for their teammates in situations when the ball is live, they’ve also shown their impact on the team’s set pieces as corner takers. Though for Miranda, there’s an entirely different spin to it.
“I think just because I’m left-footed, so naturally people are like ‘oh you’re left-footed, then you can take corners.’ So I’ve just been able to develop my left-footed ability as a corner kick-taker through the years and I was able to contribute to this team,” Miranda said.
Being a left-footer allows Miranda to use her inside foot during right corners to send in-swinging balls that curl towards the goal. This form of delivery is harder to defend against, and as Miranda has proved in the first game of the season, it also gives her a chance to swing it into the goal herself.
The combination of skills that Dydasco and Miranda bring to the team has earned them playing time in all 12 of the Bruins’ games this season. And after seeing them dart up and down their respective wings as fullbacks, it’s hard to imagine that the defenders actually started out their soccer career as midfielders.
For Dydasco, who was recruited by UCLA as a midfielder/forward, making the transition to defender in her freshman year of college was somewhat of an unsettling experience, and she needed some convincing by then-UCLA coach B.J. Snow to continue pursuing the role.
“Right after the first practice, I went up to my (former) coach and I was like ‘B.J. you know I don’t play outside back. I play center mid and forward.’ And he’s like ‘Yeah I know. I’ve been planning on this the whole time; I like you out there, I’m going to keep you back there, and I know you can do it,’” Dydasco said.
Miranda on the other hand started her career exclusively as a holding midfielder, only making the transition to the fullback position after being assigned the role during her stint with the under-17 national team. She was utilized in both roles in high school, being plugged in wherever the team needed her most, but as she approached her senior year, she mostly saw action as a defender, even playing center back, which she has done on occasion for the Bruins.
Like Dydasco, Miranda said switching positions was not the easiest of scenarios, but she went along knowing it would maximize her playing time.
“It was a little bit of an adjustment, but it was something I was really open to because I just wanted to be on the field no matter where it was,” Miranda said.
Now, after spending time in the position, Miranda has come to embrace playing fullback.
“I like playing fullback on this team because I feel like it’s a really good role for me, and I contribute the best I can in left back,” Miranda said.
As for Dydasco, she shares similar sentiments about her new role.
“I really like it,” Dydasco said. “If I had a choice now, I think I would want to play outside back, I love it. I love going forward and getting in line. It’s really fun.”