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Is It Time for a New Formation?

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Do the Whitecaps Need to Move Away from 4-2-3-1?

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

I debated whether I should wait until after Wednesday’s match against Portland to write this, but I feel the outcome will be the same and waiting will just mean adding an extra data point. Over the first two matches of the Rose City Tournament, Carl Robinson has trudged out his reliable (predictable?) 4-2-3-1.

Against Minnesota we saw Ousted in net, with Nerwinski, Waston, Parker, and Harvey in the back. Laba was partnered with Jacobson, while Manneh played centrally with Davies and Techera on the wings and Hurtado as the lone striker.

On Sunday, against Real Salt Lake, Tornaghi replaced Ousted in net. The back four consisted of Williams, Seiler, Dean, and De Jong. Jacobson and Teibert were holding midfielders while Bustos, Barnes and Manneh played in the attacking midfield. Once again, a lone striker was utilized, this time Greig.

In the two years that Carl Robinson has been at the helm, the Vancouver Whitecaps have played a predictable formation and game style (bunker down defensively and try to counter). This style has proven effective at points (most of 2015) and not at other points (most of 2016). We saw the good and the bad on Sunday. Reyna’s goal was courtesy of pressure by Hurtado, Davies, and Reyna and a quick counter. We also saw (or didn’t as the feed did not work) the negative: a boring first half with little pressure and an isolated striker who was essentially taken out of the match as a result.

While 4-2-3-1 seems to be the popular formation globally right now, the lack of consistency from the Whitecaps begs the question whether it is the right formation for the Caps? I don’t necessarily have an answer, so I wanted to leave this short and get your (analytical) perspectives. I will start with my thoughts and then you can agree/disagree and come up with your own take on the subject.

My Thoughts

I am often frustrated by those, including myself, who seem to think that the answer to a problem is simple. I work in Criminology and have to deal with people telling me that ‘to solve the crime problem, all you have to do is X’. I am not a soccer manger and have not played in probably 10 years. As a result, I am not qualified to solve the problem. Nevertheless, I am qualified to give a critical opinion. I do not necessarily see the formation as the problem nor do I believe that the Whitecaps do not have the personal to execute an effective 4-2-3-1. My question is why is nothing else considered? I get that the Whitecaps have an important Champions match against NYRB in 10 days, so the team needs to get into game form quickly. However, with so few changes to the team from last year, I suspect many are familiar with the 4-2-3-1 formation and with playing with each other. Therefore, in a meaningless game, why is nothing else tried? Yes, a formation is what they start a game with and yes, during the match the formation is very fluid, and YES, players even switch positions throughout the match, but the same personal are employed. I am not saying it will work and I am not saying that this should be what is tried, but why not give a combination of Greig and Hurtado a try? Maybe two tough guys, one tall and the other quick, could cause problems. Why not try Manneh as the lead striker? Sure, Robbo is experimenting with Manneh as a pseudo #10, but is that really where we want him playing? Maybe it is. There is a reason why Carl Robinson is the coach and I am not. Presumably he knows better. Maybe Manneh could do well more centrally. I must admit, he has looked good playing there hasn’t he?

I don’t know what the solution is for the Whitecaps. What I think is that the Whitecaps are too one-dimensional and preseason is an opportunity to test whether secondary formations can be useful.

What are your thoughts?