An examination of the Revolution’s tactical struggles heading into Seattle for a game against a surging Sounders team.
By Kevin Koczwara
Steve Nicol has been trying to get the New England Revolution to play a 4-3-3 this season, which in turn is really a 4-5-1 with a pivoting midfield triangle. So far, the tactic hasn’t worked. In theory, the Revolution have the midfielders to play the three man central midfield, but it hasn’t worked because the outside players for the Revolution haven’t created any width or exposed opponent’s outside backs. The team has done its best to try the hoof and pray tactic out of the back, skipping the midfield triangle where its best players play. The long ball tactic kills any and all moment out of a 4-5-1 and Nicol’s desired 4-3-3, so something needed to change. Nicol knew it was time to give up on his experiment, so he switched to a more traditional 4-4-2 (really a 4-4-1-1).
In Saturday’s, 1-1, draw with the Chicago Fire, Nicol went with the tried and true 4-4-2 with Pat Phelan taking more defensive responsibility in the midfield, and winning plenty of tackles with little extra “umph”, giving Shalrie Joseph more freedom to roam and create. Kenny Mansally moved into the second striker role, playing in front of Rajko Lekic, making the formation more of a 4-4-1-1.
Early on, the formation proved effective. Mansally dropped deep to pick up any scraps, headed clearances, and to give the back a shorter outlet. His movement freed up both Chris Tierney and Sainey Nyassi on the wings. The two wide midfielder only one defender to take on after Mansally dragged his player underneath and out of position. Mansally’s movement took pressure of Lekic to hold play up and create as the sole striker, something that’s been difficult for the striker as he still adapts to the physical play of Major League Soccer. It was a nice change for the Revolution, and the team looked more confident and comfortable playing out of the back.