Midfield Maestro

By Tom Murphy Jr.

Senior Reporter

Photo Credit: BOB KNOSKA/The Oakland Post

For any soccer team, the position of midfielder is crucial. They set up the forwards for scoring chances and they have to get back on defense as necessary.

It is the position that requires the most stamina and the most decision making with the ball. The midfielder is comparable to the point guard in basketball or the quarterback in football.

Oakland University senior Martin Sandell is the star midfielder for the Grizzlies.

Last year Sandell joined the Grizzlies as a transfer student from Oslo, Norway. He played an integral part in the success of the Grizzlies and he was named Summit League Newcomer of the Year.

This season Sandell continues to help lead OU as they get closer to attaining the goal of a Summit League Championship followed by a berth in the NCAA tournament.

Sandell said that he enjoys playing the midfield position as he has been playing it most of his life. But this season OU head coach Gary Parsons has been playing Sandell in different variations of the midfield.

“I have been playing a lot of forward, or attacking midfield,” Sandell said. “What I need to do is create chances, get opened up and get the ball up there (to the strikers). My role is to create scoring chances for the other guys more than scoring myself.”  

As of Oct. 17, Sandell has recorded two goals and four assists. Parsons said that he has used Sandell as an attacking midfielder, out wide as a forward and out wide as a true midfielder.

Parsons said that Sandell is an excellent playmaker.

“When you get the ball to Martin he doesn’t lose it and he makes good decisions,” Parsons said. “And he can beat a guy when he has to. When Martin gets the ball usually good things happen.”

Senior defender Ian Daniel agreed that Sandell is an excellent decision-maker. He said that Sandell coaches as he plays on the field.

“I think he is a very composed player on the field,” Daniel said. “He’s very vocal on the field and that makes it easier for everyone around him. He leads by example — he is a great worker. He goes above and beyond what most players do on the field. That is why he is one of the top players on the team.”

While Sandell did have an immediate impact last year when he joined the team, he said that there is one major difference from the style he plays now, compared to the style of play he was used to growing up.

“The main difference is that over there we use a zonal tactic where every player has the responsibility of a zone instead of a player,” Sandell said.

“Over here it’s more man-to-man. It was hard to get used to,”

Sandell said that while playmaking is his main role on the team, overall team defense is very important for the team to continue to have success, building on their current 10-4 record.

“Obviously they are not going to score from up here but it’s a team effort when we play defense,” Sandell said. “If we don’t do our job up here it makes it harder for [our defenders]. We work on team defense a lot.”

While the Grizzlies are enjoying a successful season so far, Parsons said that Sandell and the rest of the team need to find more ways to score in order to be successful going into the end of the season.

“Our biggest problem is goal scoring,” Parsons said. “If you look at our scores, there are a lot of 1-0 games.”

Parsons said that during the team’s practice, the team works on finding different ways to create more scoring chances when in their offensive third of the field because so far, they simply haven’t been scoring enough to compete at a national level.

“It’s a combination of a bunch of things,” Parsons said. “It’s not taking your chances when you can, it’s giving up some responsibility by passing when you should try to take on a guy and to get a shot.”

“It’s decision making in tight spaces [in front of the goal]. You need to be a greedy player in the box, you need to be able to have confidence to get it done,” he said.

Sandell’s two goals and four assists are not enough to satisfy him.  

“I hoped to play a little better than I have so far, I want to create more chances for myself and my teammates, but we are doing well so you really can’t complain,” he said.

For Sandell, creating chances is his main focus when on the field. While he does like to score goals, being a playmaker is what gives him the biggest thrill as an athlete.

“Making a really nice pass (setting up teammate for a goal) can be harder than scoring,” Sandell said. “If you get a nice setup and the goal is wide open it’s easy to score.”