Thursday, July 29, 2004


Sampson's revenge!

The Crew snapped their four-game winless streak with a 2-1 victory over the Burn by using the most maligned formation in all of soccer, the 3-6-1.  For those who aren't formation wonks, this system of play involves 3 defenders, 6 midfielders, and a lone target striker.  The purpose of this scheme is to flood the midfield with players and stretch the field to its maximum width through the use of its numerical advantage by breaking down the defense and scoring goals through the creation of mismatches and confusion about marking assignments for the defense.  The reason this scheme has gotten so much bad ink in the past is because Steve Sampson wedded our National Team to it in preparation for the 1998 World Cup without knowing exactly HOW his six-man midfield needed to be staffed.  Fortunately for us, Greg Andrulis did a slightly better job of addressing the various needs and as a result we were able to bring home the three points to keep pace with the Metrostars in the East.  My review:

*Tactics were better.  Fozzie finally put Manny Lagos and Kyle Martino together in attacking midfield, but left Jeff Cunningham out of the first XI to do so.  Their ability to run into the corners and play like additional forwards opened up the field for Simon Elliot to do more playmaking and allowed Chris Wingert to get into more-attacking positions in the first half.  The first goal came as a result of a pair of Dallas defenders BOTH not marking Buddle, with the second coming on a quick counter created by KMart stripping a player, dumping the ball back to Simon and then sprinting for the corner all while Buddle ran to a specific spot to which Elliot's pass was excellently stroked.  The only criticism I have to the set-up is that we were unable to adequately mark out O'Brien and Davis on the flanks because Wingert and Hejduk had to provide more offensive support than normal.

*KNEE-JERK substitutions.  Andrulis replaced players after Dallas trimmed the lead to 2-1 as though his life was on the line.  He inserted Maissoneuve for Lagos and thus cut off the tap of offensive pressure on the Burn.  Wingert's knock brought Den-TON onto the field, another scared move.  No criticism on the third sub except that I would have left Buddle on and brought on Testo for Martino in order to add back a bit of striking bite to secure the win.

*First 60, PRETTY GOOD.  Last 30, BAD!  The whole gameflow went south once we brought Mais onto the field.  Five more minutes at 2-0 and I have a feeling Sutton or Barclay might have found the pitch and the score could have finished 3-0 or 3-1.  When Greg gets the first XI mix right, this team can play with anyone in the league, but once he tinkers with that good mix the game goes nowhere but downhill and we are in a fight to keep the three points earned by the collection of starters.

This scheme might have been a one-off, but if we see it again, this would be my preference for the first XI:

This way, we play our flanks the same as in the 3-5-2 and get two additional attackers pushing up on the sides with decent playmaking in support.  Usually this scheme is built with the midfield in reverse (AMs and DMs playing centrally and flashing to the outsides with the wide midfielders being the middle pair and going endline to endline), but I think this could work for us for the time being.  If we were able to get a reasonable complement for Hejduk on the opposite flank and work Szetela into the first XI, then we could invert this midfield back to its original design.

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