July 17, 2012
THE FORMATION QUANDRY
What will the Red Bulls use? A 4-3-3 that had problems or a a 4-4-2 that was more effective?
By Kristian R. Dyer
|As of Tuesday afternoon, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe hasn't made a decision on his formation for Wednesday's Chicago game or he isn't telling.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
BigAppleSoccer.com Contributing Editor
UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – For the first time in the over two seasons that coach Hans Backe has been on the sidelines at Red Bull Arena, he ran out a version of the 4-3-3 during Sunday’s 2-2 result with Seattle.
Up top, Backe utilized Thierry Henry in the middle with Kenny Cooper and Sebastien Le Toux on either side. The formation lasted roughly midway through the first half before a tactical change was made.
After a switch to the team’s more familiar 4-4-2, the Red Bulls looked more settled and precise on the ball. Backe had originally tried to utilize the newly acquired Le Toux up top to complement an offense that has struggled in recent weeks. Instead, the Red Bulls looked confused in the new formation.
“The first 20 minutes we were running all over the place, we didn’t look organized the first 20 minutes,” Backe said. “We then did some adjustment in getting Sebastien a little bit wide right and playing more of a 4-4-2, we looked more solid and took over the game. But it’s more about the balance.”
Moving Le Toux to the wing helped provide some balance to the team. Backe won’t promise though that he will go with a four-man midfield for Wednesday’s game against Chicago (MSG, 1 p.m. ET).
In fact, he might go with three strikers again at some point in the season despite their recent struggles against the Sounders, especially if midfielder Teemu Tainio is able to return from a knee injury.
“Depends a little bit. I still think it is a possibility to play with all three strikers at the same time but as I said [after the game], probably we need a little bit of a different balance in the midfield to play with these three strikers at the same time,” Backe said. “Need a guy like Teemu back with his physical strength.”
But the lack of flow and rhythm to the Red Bulls attack in large part had to do with a lack of understanding of how to operate in a midfield with three men. Consistently this season, the Red Bulls have been very good at checking back to the ball to help start the counterattack and create possession when the backline holds onto the ball.
When asked by BigAppleSoccer.com, Le Toux acknowledged that he prefers to play up top “where I can run at people” but said that he is willing to play on the wing.
It is clear, however, that the Red Bulls players prefer the four men in the midfield. It is a system, they say, where they know their roles and how to show to the ball to promote possession and not the hopeless long passes seen on Sunday.
“You kind of lose that midfield shape a little bit and I think in that Seattle game were too stretched from the forwards back to ourselves," midfielder Dax McCarty said. "I think Joel found himself isolated in the middle a little bit. That’s when you need your outside midfielders to tuck in and find the ball in the middle of the field.
“At the end of the day it was a little bit of an uneven performance, we had to switch formations midway through the first half. I think getting Thierry higher was to our benefit.”
McCarty, like Backe, won’t acknowledge what the formation will look like against Chicago but he clearly favors something akin to the 4-4-2.
“I don’t know, I think that after the change was made, I thought we saw us dominate the game a little more than they were,” McCarty said. “They were controlling the game the first 15 minutes.”