by Matt Levin

Mikenna McManus, a junior defenseman on Northeastern’s women’s soccer team, has a unique talent that few other soccer players have. She is two-footed, meaning her feet are ambidextrous. 

Being two-footed gives McManus a huge advantage athletically. Opposing defenders do not know which way she will go when she is dribbling the ball, as her talent allows her to be able to cut both left and right. McManus’ talent also makes her a set piece specialist. 

On free kicks and corner kicks, kickers will often try to generate an inswing or an outswing. An outswing is when the ball is kicked in a way where it bends away from the goal. An inswing is when the ball bends towards the goal. If a player is kicking a corner kick or free kick from the right side of the field, kicking the ball with their right foot produces an outswing and their left foot produces an inswing. Kicking from the left side of the field is the opposite. 

Normally, a defender can tell whether an inswing or outswing is coming because most players have only one dominant foot. However when Mikenna is kicking, Northeastern is at an advantage because opposing defenders do not know what to expect. 

Many soccer players who are two-footed, are not born that way. Jan Gregus, a two-footed Midfielder on Minnesota United and the Slovakian National Team, developed his unique skill by “trying to use both of my feet, kicking it with the left and right the same amount from a younger age.” McManus was no different.

McManus started playing soccer on a club team coached by her dad up until she was nine years old. This is where she became two-footed. “Originally I was right footed. However, my dad forced me to use my left foot. I guess he thought it was cool,” McManus said. “My dad would only let me use my left foot or else he would pull me out of the game.” 

In order to better develop her left foot, McManus spent a lot of time practicing off the field. 

“I did a lot of kicking the ball against the wall, trying not to use my right foot, only my left,” she said. “My dad would also pass back and forth with me. By using it in practice and in games, it became repetitive.”

Being ambidextrous is an extremely rare talent to have. Only one in 100 people are ambidextrous. One might think that being ambidextrous is big among top soccer players as professional teams would want to take advantage of that talent. While it is more common, only 18 percent of players in the top five European Leagues are considered two-footed. 

When recruiting McManus, coach Ashley Phillips, knew right away that she wanted to add her to the team. 

“As a coach, I am looking for technical aspects of the game,” Phillips said. “I don’t see the talent of being two-footed often. It is an extraordinary talent for a kid to have.” 

McManus’ ability to use both her feet has led to her getting 10 assists over three seasons at Northeastern and an All-CAA second and third team nomination. However, she is not done working on her skills. “I would really like to be a lot better at curving the ball with my left foot,” McManus said.

Coach Phillips would love to see McManus boost her confidence. 

“She does not understand just how talented she really is,” Phillips said.