What did our beloved Claret and Cobalt do the evening of March, 10th? They did what they trained for. They did what they most wanted. They did what they are capable of. They “came to score” (The Aggrolites).
How does that song about changes go? Ah, no matter. We saw plenty of them last night — including, surprisingly, a change to our formation in a 0-0 draw to the Philadelphia Union. We may have been perhaps a bit lucky — or skillful, maybe that — to escape with our first point since June, so let's have at it.
We'll start with the formation, because that's the part that really fascinated me. Without Fabian Espindola (rested for fatigue) in the side, we started in a formation with only one striker, Alvaro Saborio, and with Javier Morales in a bit of a free role. In a sense, this was the diamond plus one.
On one hand, it lessened the creative requirements of Luis Gil, who had a fine passing game but didn't create much anything of real note. Indeed, the creativity largely came up top, but with only one runner up to, Javi had little room to find the killer pass. The runs of Saborio are fine and good, mind, but when three men can devote their offensive attention to him, the effectiveness dies off quite rapidly.
Despite the drop in room for our playmakers to find killer passes, we did find ourselves with near-golden opportunities a few times. The biggest perhaps is Jonny Steele deep in the box from a long Kyle Beckerman pass — but a slight mistouch and superb goalkeeping scuppered that chance. We had a chance from a corner, as well, but with the ball bouncing around in the box, nobody got much of anything on it (from either side) until a clearance came in.
We know we won't have created enough to satisfy our desires, but it is easy to forget that a road point is not such a negative result. Given our utter profligacy on the road in the last two or three months, complaints about this one ring a bit hollow to me.
The Formation: A 4-1-4-1?
I've seen our formation last night listed as a 4-1-4-1, but I will reject that assumption from the onset. What we saw was something very similar to our diamond in the midfield, with Will Johnson supporting Beckerman and Ned Grabavoy a little further forward, while Luis Gil was further forward in that tip-of-the-diamond spot. Javier was floating in that free role, and Saborio was up top.
Describing this as a 4-1-4-1 when normally describing our system as a 4-4-2 and not a 4-1-3-2 would seem to make this more defensive, but it's really just a nominal reform then. I'd describe it as a 4-4-1-1, or perhaps a 4-1-3-1-1, but lumping Javi into the rest of the midfield with his free role betrays the notion of the linear midfield. Formation diagrams rarely support a player in a free role, at any rate.
Complaints about the formation in some senses are valid — without two strikers we lacked the long, darting runs of Espindola to draw defenders away from Saborio — but it was hardly a defensive outlay. Could this work in the future? Perhaps, but we'd need more runs from deep in midfield. Ned Grabavoy provided those, but his departure on 55 minutes after a hellacious match stopped those in their tracks.
At any rate, it was one of those matches that could have come down to an unlucky bounce, but a strong defensive effort from our back four dispensed with that possibility. It would have been particularly harsh. A point, i suspect, is all either side really deserved.