April 28, 2012; Commerce City, CO, USA; Colorado Rapids forward Omar Cummings (14) seduces the ball at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
If I were the "Kicky-Kicky-Pass-Pass" style of sexy football right now, I would be very confused. I'd feel like that guy who just had most of his close relatives die, and all my friends are talking about how this is the end for me. That's what the past week has been like for the current in vogue style of sexy football is.
This article is about the Rapids, but you can't mention the Rapids' tactical shift without talking a little about Chelsea vs. Barcelona. Heck, anytime you talk about anything happening in football it all seems to go back to Barcelona nowadays. But what I think we've got to understand is a little bit of necessary context. Some fans might accuse the Rapids of abandoning their possession based game in favor of a utilitarian 4-4-2, and reaping great results.
I'm hoping that's not the lesson we take from this. More after the jump.
Sexy football fans shouldn't worry, the Rapids style of play actually changed very little from the shift from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3. The difference is that it seems Oscar Pareja has responded to two very pointed and two very right criticisms:
1. Omar Cummings is not a lone forward.
2. Kosuke Kimura is a marked man.
The first he responded to by getting Omar Cummings a strike partner in Tony Cascio. This turned out to light up Cummings' world. Even without tallying a goal, Omar Cummings caused fits for the defense. Then, in a moment of that old Jamaican magic, he received a pass from Cascio, made a trademark cutting diagonal run, and then played an unselfish square pass straight into the path of an onrushing Kamani Hill, who finished it off with sublime footwork. This is the Omar Cummings fans have been hoping to see, and why I kept saying "do not bench Omar Cummings." Omar Cummings is a great forward, but not a lone forward. And that got addressed, so good deal.
To the second, Pareja put in Hunter Freeman in the second half and the right side started to calm down. Freeman's defensive presence is more imposing and less well-known to opponents, so ended up making the right side less vulnerable. Kimura being taken out was a risk, because it risks taking out Kimura's service into the box. The Rapids switched the side of play to down Zapata's left side with much better results. The offense took off.
My thought on this is that Pareja is still missing that Brian Mullan is a winger, and is playing like a winger, and Kosuke Kimura is also playing like a winger. It's overlap of the worst kind. My final thought after watching this game is to slide Omar out right where Mullan is and then slot Kamani Hill or a resurgent Conor Casey at center forward (not lone forward, mind you).
So do we get rid of the 4-3-3? Maybe. Maybe not. But we shouldn't abandon our style of "sexy football" simply because of a few bad results. At the end of the day, the most you can ask from a style of football is that it be entertaining, and that it helps lead to more wins than losses.
Bayern plays a 4-3-3 sometimes, Chelsea plays a 4-3-3 sometimes; it's all situational. The only thing common to them is that they all try to play a style of football that wins them more games.
Now, I've heard a lot in the past week about how "that's it for beautiful football", and it's garbage. In the end, Barcelona's style still is able to help them win more games than lose them, and as long as that's the case, it will still be practiced at the Camp Nou. The problem, I feel, is in saying that Barcelona or whoever else has "perfected" football. Their style is evolving as much as anyone's. The Rapids style is evolving as much as anyone's. To say that "this style is perfect" is to immediately condemn yourself to the dunce corner of football. It may take one season to prove you wrong, it may take several, but you'll get there eventually.
Football is constantly evolving and changing, teams constantly evolve and change. The Rapids are still growing in their new style, so expect to see even more surprises in the season to come. Results may vary.
Don't go for perfection. There's no such thing. Just win, baby.