Before, I begin this article, I want to apologize for the lack of articles this week. I have had some stressful matters to attend to.
Anyhow, Union players are dropping like flies. Here is a current list of players missing due to injury, personal matters, or red cards:
* Chaco Maidana (injury)
* CJ Sapong (injury)
* Connor Casey (injury)
* Eric Bird (injury)
* Andre Blake (injury)
* Sheanon Williams (injury)
* Zach Pfeffer (red card)
* Fred (personal issues)
Three games in and this team is already decimated. Perhaps most importantly, we have absolutely no one who plays CAM. So what do we do now?
Well, we can stick with the 4-2-3-1/4-5-1. As a note, I would play Fabinho as a LB regardless of the formation until Sheanon is healthy, since we don’t have much in the way of options.
With the lineup we have now, I would put Vincent Nogueira in the 10 role and Michael Lahoud as the defensive midfield presence. This would put Mo Edu in the box-to-box role he prefers and allow him to bomb forward.
This isn’t pretty though. Vincent Nogueira has proved over and over again he isn’t a 10 and that he prefers to not play as a 10. As for Lahoud, he is the type of player who can play in a pinch but not someone you want to dwell on. He can certainly fill in well against a team like Chicago, but he is a mistake waiting to happen against better teams.
Further, this does nothing to address the fact that Nando has played on an island for most of the year. No one other than Chaco has provided him much in the way of support. Without further changes, we are just sitting and praying that one of the wingers finds their form.
Pros: Solid defensive shape, Puts Mo in a more comfortable role, Provides some tactical consistency for a team in turmoil
Cons: Nogueira isn’t a 10 and could be in for a rough game, Neither of our wingers have provided support for Nando up top, Lahoud is a mistake waiting to happen
I know this formation isn’t popular. I am not a fan of it myself. However, all the missing players may have forced our hands. So what would this look like?
I’d start by pushing Sebastian Le Toux up top to play off of Nando. At his best, Sebastian likes to find space to run onto the ball. Nando would be the target man Seba has never had. Plus, we take him away from the winger role in which he has been terrible this year.
Out wide, we can replace him with Jimmy McLaughlin or Eric Ayuk Mbi. I wrote an article last week about why I love Jimmy’s game. The coaching staff doesn’t seem to agree with me and played Ayuk last week. Either way, one of the two youngsters may offer the spark that we have needed on the wings all year. We may have speed and technical ability out wide for once.
Pros: Sebastian is moved to his best spot, No more Sebastian on the wing!, Gives the youngsters a chance
Cons: Too attacking of a formation to play against top teams, Leaves us undermanned in the center of midfield, Lacks creativity and possession in midfield
This is my outside the box idea. We certainly won’t see it, but it is worth considering.
Through this formation, I would start a back three of Vitoria, Marquez, and White. Fabinho and Ray would be the two fullbacks. In midfield, we would have Lahoud, Mo, and Nogueira. Up top, I’d play Sebastian and Nando.
Again, this is just an outside the box idea. It could offer some interesting possibilities:
- Fabinho’s main weakness is his defensive skills while he is talented at going forward. A three-man back line behind him would cover for his defensive weaknesses and allow him to focus more on getting forward and putting in dangerous crosses.
- The three-man back line would offer extra cover to stabilize what has been an inconsistent defensive showing.
- Our wingers have been terrible anyway. Why not just get rid of them on the field?
- It puts Sebastian back in the position where he found the most success.
Now, a lot can go wrong with this. We saw under Piotr Nowak in the playoffs the danger of switching to such an unfamiliar formation without proper preparation. If players don’t know their roles, mistakes will happen.
Also, the formation historically fell out of fashion as teams began switching to lone forwards. While successful against two strikers, a single striker is capable of dragging the three-man back line out of position. This creates pockets of space that can easily be exploited. A complete unknown like Ritchie Marquez could easily fall victim to one of these mistakes.
Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
Pros: Best fits the players we have available, Provides a more sturdy defensive shape, Adds another goalscorer up top
Cons: Too foreign of a formation for this team, Would force an unknown defender to play, Sacrifices width for defense
So what do we do? Personally, I’d prefer to play a 4-4-2 against a weak and questionable Chicago side. If we can notch a goal or two, we can then switch to a more defensive formation and grind out a result. It wouldn’t be pretty, but a win is a win at this stage. Once Fred comes back, I’d work into the 10 role in a five man midfield.
What do I think that Jim Curtin will do? I expect him to go with the 4-2-3-1 with Lahoud joining Nogueira and Edu in midfield. This team will play very defensively, grind out a result, and provide 90 minutes of terrible nationally televised soccer. Though is that much different from what we are used to seeing?
What say you readers? What starting XI would you pick, and how would you line them up?