It seems increasingly probable that RSL will shift formations this year, most likely to some variation of a 4-3-3. As we head into the regular season, I’ve been mulling over what this may potentially mean for the team.
Change is inevitable
When Jeff Cassar took over for Jason Kreis and said he was going to keep everything the same, I thought it was a mistake. You can’t expect to just pick up where Jason Kreis left off in your first season and expect everything to go swimmingly. In retrospect, it was probably an easier transition into head coach for Jeff to leave things the way they were, in a formation the team was already comfortable with, rather than trying to impose his own formation or take on what the team should be doing. But you knew that, eventually, the heyday of the diamond was passed.
There are really two pretty-darn-obvious things that go into a shift from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3.
My initial reaction to the 4-3-3 is “hey more forwards!” We have really talented wing players now in Plata and Jaime, and this will give the team the opportunity to use them in positions they are comfortable with. In particular, Plata’s setup play was as valuable last year as his goal scoring and having two Platas (with Sebastian Jaime on the other side) would be even better than one. This potentially makes Sabo the target man and a lot of wide play coming down the flanks from the wingers.
Less midfielders 😦
But more forwards on the pitch means less midfielders on the pitch and we saw some really exciting things from the midfield last year. Namely, the rise of Luke Mulholland. Luke was insane — he blended right in with the team almost immediately (not excluding a Ras Tas Tas with Joao Plata and Olmes Garcia) — and unseated Luis Gil from his middle-of-the-diamond seat that we all assumed would be solid. A Luke + Luis + Javi + Kyle midfield was pretty much what I expected going into 2015 with Ned Grabavoy in New York, but with 3 midfielders, that might not happen. (It’s still possible that Javi plays one of the wing positions.)
But fewer players in the midfield might actually be a good thing seeing as how, in addition to regular league play, RSL will be competing in the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League this year. That’s a lot of games and rotation around the midfield will be necessary. Combine that with the inevitable absences of Kyle Beckerman and we’ve got some real room for some of the younger midfielders to squeeze into the first team without disrupting the entire formation.
Team chemistry is critical
Any time the formation or the lineup changes significantly, it sends ripples through the entire team. Minimizing those ripples will be the challenge in rotating players in and out of the new formation. Change, and getting these new, young players we’ve acquired in the offseason playing time is exciting, but maintaining a consistent foundation is equally vital. Luckily, RSL has no shortage of veteran players who can be around to help the younger players adapt and we’ve never had a problem with locker room culture. I’m excited to see what 2015 brings.