Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Look at the Defense

I've watched the game between the Union and the Rapids. And many things jumped out at me. The flashes of offensive brilliance to set up shots in the first half. The inability to finish those chances, reminiscent of last season. But the biggest thing I noticed was the back line. And who was on it. And how fluid it was. Is this due to the lack of  Mondragon commanding the defense? Is it the lack of captain Danny Califf?

All I know is with the exception of Pajoy and Mwanga up front, players were everywhere. Sheannon Williams running up on attack, Gomez dropping back and defendeing the side. 3 backs on the line. Another new formation from Nowak, and another where players looked uncomfortable in their positions. Tactically, it appeared to work in the first half. The Union were attacking with speed, and they got the better of the chances. They controlled the ball, and they controlled play.

Then the second half started. And Colorado controlled play for about ten minutes. And in that 10 minutes they scored two goals. And the back line made mistakes. Lopez and Valdes had miscommunications. Albright,who should not have been playing, fell over instead of clearing the ball to MacMath. And MacMath let in 2 goals that he should have stopped. For 10 minutes, confusion on the back line cost the Union a match.

Could Danny Califf have changed this result? Certainly he could have. Even with only 3 men on the backline, Califf and Valdes have played together for one season. The mistakes between Lopez and Valdes would have been slightly more acceptable, since Califf could have been back to help out. And Califf would have been able to handle the clearance that led to Colorado's 2nd goal. Last season, our backline was the 2nd stingiest in the league. And one of the reasons that was true was because of the cohesion we had. The back four of 2011 knew how to play together.

And this back 4(or 3) do not. And not starting the captain, a cornerstone of the Union defensive back line, only adds to the mistakes. Will these new formations that Nowak is rolling out work? Maybe. But Nowak needs to put away his pride and start his best players. That means Califf and Valdes on the backline together, not one playing and one on the bench. Play with the attacking players all you want. Put one striker up or two. Start 5 midfielders. But defense thrives when they play well together. And the only way for that to happen is to consistently start the same back 4.

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