Jul 1, 2013, 10:45 PM EDT
No Major League Soccer team has become as synonymous with their formation as Real Salt Lake, yet Saturday at BMO Field, Jason Kreis temporarily abandoned his 4-3-1-2 (or, 4-4-2, diamond). Against a Toronto side that’s playing Ryan Richter and Darren O’Dea at fullbacks, the Real Salt Lake boss took the opportunity to try a 4-3-3 formation. The result was more typical than glamorous, Real Salt Lake grinding out a 1-0 win in Ontario.
Let’s leave aside the fact that TFC could have easily tied this late. Let’s talk about an experience that only comes along once every couple of years. With Luis Gil just coming back from Turkey and Ned Grabavoy getting a well-deserved reprieve (the under-appreciated midfielder was held out of the starting XI), Kreis deployed a midfield triangle with Kyle Beckerman and Yordany Alvarez at its base, Javier Morales at its top. Joao Plata (left) and Olmes García flanked Devon Sandoval up top.
Against a team that plays as conservatively as Toronto, it’s difficult to draw any broad conclusions about how the setup work. RSL survived the day, which is probably all Kreis wanted to do, but with few other teams across Major League Soccer likely to replicate Ryan Nelsen’s tactics, it’s hard to determine the extent to which a 4-3-3 would otherwise work for RSL.
The one obvious benefit would be getting the likes of Plata and García into the lineup. Along with Sandoval, Alvaro Saborío, and Robbie Findley, the duo help make up a one of the deepest forward corps in Major League Soccer. It doesn’t take a managerial genius to know finding room for talented players is a good thing, though with the depth of RSL’s midfield (Morales, Gil, Grabavoy, Beckerman), it’s unclear playing more 4-3-3 wouldn’t require benching a more talented player.
In addition to choosing the right talent, a coach has to maximize the output of the players he picks, and it’s unclear keeping a player like Kyle Beckerman as a part of a double pivot would leverage the all-star’s virtues. Part of the brilliance of a Beckerman is the fact that you don’t need two holders. He can do the job of two men, allowing you to commit another player higher up the field. Why have somebody play beside Kyle Beckerman when you could just have Kyle Beckerman?
If RSL were to use a 4-3-3 more often, it would make more sense to use Grabavoy or Gil as a shuttler and abandon the two holders, particularly with Javi Morales occupying the other midfield role. For the unmatched talent Morales has on the ball, he’s a defensive liability, and only against teams like Toronto can you play Morales above two holders without ceding the middle of the park.
Back up top, as Plata’s speed was drawing fouls from Richter, you saw an advantage that went beyond merely getting another player on the field. It’s one of the luxuries you have when strikers like Saborio and Sandoval are capable of occupying a central defense and a talent like García can occupy a spot wide.
If Kreis can use a formation change to create those kind of matchups, a three-front at least offers a late match option, if not a starting choice against teams whose fullbacks profile like Toronto’s. While we didn’t get any conclusive evidence of the setup’s long-term viability, RSL’s depth up top may make another try worthwhile.
Sep 20, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT
There were several eyebrow raisers on Matchday 4 even before Sunday’s Rhein Derby and a big Wolfsburg match versus Bayer Leverkusen.
Sep 20, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Cameroon will host the ACON for the second time in their history in 2019.
Sep 20, 2014, 2:57 PM EDT
Recaps, videos, reaction and analysis from Saturday’s six games in the PL.
Sep 20, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT
Brendan Rodgers side lost its third match of the young season and Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United leapfrogged the Reds with a Saturday win.
Sep 20, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT
Saints are flying high early in the season, as preseason predictions of relegation seem to be well wide of the mark.
Sep 20, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT
Can Welbeck and Ozil click and become Arsenal’s main offensive weapons?
Sep 20, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT
Raheem Stirling has narrowed Liverpool’s deficit to 2-1 at halftime in a Saturday afternoon thriller on NBC.
Sep 20, 2014, 1:14 PM EDT
“It’s not lost on me that I get accused of being arrogant but I’m also a proud man to be manager of this football club and I’m going to fight to keep it,” Pardew said.
Sep 20, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT
Watch Real’s masterclass, as the Spanish giants batter Deportivo in La Liga.
Sep 20, 2014, 12:05 PM EDT
Clarets and Black Cats still searching for first win of the season after stalemate.
Sep 20, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT
The loss drops Swansea to fifth place on nine points, while Saints jump into second place with 10 points.
Sep 20, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT
Cisse revealed an undershirt message of “Always looking forward Jonas” for his teammate Gutierrez, who revealed cancer struggles earlier this week.
Sep 20, 2014, 11:53 AM EDT
Three goals in three first half minutes do the business for Arsene Wenger’s men.
Sep 20, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT
Liverpool will start Fabio Borini and Mario Balotelli up top after their last-gasp Champions League win over Ludogorets midweek.
Sep 20, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT
Ozil and Welbeck rip Villa apart in stunning three-minute spell for the Gunners.
Sep 20, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT
Action at Villa Park, while a Swan sees red at the Liberty.
Sep 20, 2014, 9:56 AM EDT
Both clubs go in search of their first win of the season. Watch live, right here.
Sep 20, 2014, 9:48 AM EDT
Can the Gunners grab their first win since the opening day of the season? Will Villa stay unbeaten? Watch live, right here.
Sep 20, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT
Bafetimbi Gomis has been relegated to the bench for the hosts, while Shane Long gets the start up-top with Graziano Pelle for the Saints.
Sep 20, 2014, 9:39 AM EDT
Kranjcar’s curler saves the day for Rangers, as Stoke are thwarted.
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