Editor's note: after an unsuccessful attempt to move the original FanPost by Eighty Six Forever regular, John Andress, to the main page, I was finally forced to repost it as a new article. I do not intend take credit for John's fine work and reasoning, but instead I wanted to put it on a place on the site where we all could enjoy it and ponder John's interesting hypothesis ~MD
I was looking forward a great deal to this weekend's visit of Liverpool FC to Old Trafford as it was loudly touted that both sides might field a three centre back formation which, in the event, is exactly what transpired.
This was of particular interest as the deployment of this formation by several sides, including Louis van Gaal's Dutch squad in last summer's World Cup, caught my attention and the implicit promise of pitch-wide offense which emphasizes increased wing play (I am after all, a product of the middle of the last century) was quite intriguing.
Despite the three to nil result in favour of the home side, the match did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the pacey, flowing football and look forward to seeing some of the same on the BC Place turf in the coming season.
This is not a pipe dream. Carl Robinson was reported as saying this week that he is trying to build a squad capable of playing three different systems. Apparently he specifically mentioned the three centre back formation and presume that the others would be the 4-2-3-1 he favoured last year and the 4-4-2 diamond midfield which we also saw at times in 2014.
During the Liverpool/Manchester United match it was clear that the three centre back system opened up the full width of the pitch but left the centre of the park vulnerable to a quick counter. Man U's first two markers were created with speedy movements on the flanks and the second one, at least, resulted from the central midfielders losing their marks in the final third.
Both the game commentators and the talking heads on the Canadian television panel concurred that the key to this system is the personnel. All were in agreement that Liverpool's failure was not due to the formation but to the players' inability to execute properly in both attack and defense. TFC's Steven Caldwell correctly pointed out that it is inherent in the system that the outside players in the back three inevitably get dragged wide so must be both mobile and comfortable playing in wider positions. There is pressure on the central or holding midfielder to mark closely and tenaciously in anticipation of the cross into the middle.
For me, it is vital that Carl Robinson's young Vancouver Whitecaps build off last season's achievements by expanding their tactical capabilities and being more flexible rather than becoming one-dimensional and predictable. Being able to field a number of formations depending on the opposition fits the bill perfectly.
Using last year's roster (minus those that we know will definitely not be returning) as an example, I suggest that the following line-up would be up to the task of successfully playing a three centre back formation:
David Ousted (not Davide De Gea but then, who is?), Johnny Leveron, Andy O'Brien, Kendall Waston, Steven Beitashour, Mauro Rosales, Matias Laba (playing a little deeper, perhaps, more accurately, as 3-1-4-2), Russell Tiebert, Jordan Harvey, Kekuta Manneh, Erik Hurtado.
In this line-up I see a steady, central presence in O'Brien, flanked by two mobile defenders who we have often seen playing further outside so obviously have a comfort level there. Both Leveron and Waston have demonstrated the ability to turn the play up-field very quickly as well. A proven holding midfielder in Matias Laba and two wings backs in Harvey and Beitashour who both like to get quickly up the flanks and can make the cross at the end of it. Morales and Rosales orchestrating the attack in mid-field servicing two strikers who, hopefully, will enjoy greater success than last year.
Despite the victory of the forces of evil, the Liverpool/ManU match was very entertaining, not least for the Stretford End serenading Brendan Rodgers at the end of the match with "You're getting sacked in the morning", proving that irregardless of any other warts and blemishes the modern game may display in the UK, at least wit has not been entirely expunged from the beautiful game.
Fascinating to speculate what might be in Carl Robinson's mind as he builds his roster and plans his strategy for next season's MLS campaign.