Many were surprised by the new formation the coaching staff decided to put out for the Rapids this past weekend against the Whitecaps. On some levels, though, it did make sense.
First, the Rapids standard 4-2-3-1 only has one dedicated forward who many think should be a classic "number 9" *cough* Matt Doyle *cough* and the Rapids coaching staff seem to think that Gaby Torres won't work in that position. Some of us at Burgundy Wave believe that Torres played as a "false 9" in this formation would work wonderfully with Brown, Sanchez, Eloundou, or Chavez on the wings. This would cause defenses to rethink who to mark as they wouldn't know who was going forward when. But I digress; keeping Buddle back in Colorado because of the turf left a hole in the Rapids 4-2-3-1 lineup in the eyes of the coaches.
Second, the 4-2-3-1 can be very hard to switch quickly from offense to defense, as the wide midfielders stray forward leaving only a three-man midfield to be overrun very quickly on a counter. Resorting to a four-man midfield gave us equal numbers against the Whitecaps as well as allowing both Brown and Torres to roam forward. This helped immensely in clogging the midfield and we started seeing the Whitecaps going for aerial balls more in the second half.
There were downfalls to using this system. Our midfield was composed of primarily central midfielders so we never really saw them open up and go wide down the wings. Only Powers and José Mari seemed to know where to play. Hill and Sturgis both, according to their heatmaps, look like they didn't know their position and Hill should definitely not play ACM. This caused the fullbacks to overlap more (as we can see in both of their heatmaps). What looked like a solid idea to help a team with an injured defense actually became a hindrance when Piermayr and Burch were caught out of position several times. (as I had issues trying to upload the images follow this link to the chalkboard for the game and hover over player names for their heatmap)
What does this mean for us fans? The first is that Pablo/the rest of the coaching staff are not afraid to try new formations. This could be done to match up against opponents' weaknesses as well as attempting to compensate for our own (see this weekend). From what I have seen this coaching staff is much better at making decisions then Betrayja Pareja ever was. The second is that the Rapids can play more than just the 4-2-3-1. Though it was rough at times, the 4-4-2 diamond looks to be a tactical tool the Rapids could use in special circumstances if they worked on it a little bit more. Third, the interplay possibilities between Torres and Brown could surpass the 2010 levels of Casey and Cummings if allowed to grow and develop.
Thanks for reading what I hope to make a regular analysis of tactical lineup decisions and their impact on the game, the potential thoughts behind them, and their successes and failures. If you have any comments, concerns, or constructive criticism feel free to comment below.