Revolution

BSJ Match #3 Review: Revolution 2, Toronto 3 – TFC dissects Friedel’s 4-4-2

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Unfortunately for Brad Friedel's mantra that successful teams in MLS don't lose two games in a row, the New England Revolution have fallen for the second time in a row in only three league matches so far this season. In what New England players will surely call a frustrating result, Toronto FC had all of the answers to Friedel's unit on Sunday evening at BMO Field. Jozy Altidore scored the go-ahead goal with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game to seal three points for his club.

Let's look at the starting 11...

[caption id="attachment_495161" align="aligncenter" width="467"] Headshots from revolutionsoccer.net.[/caption]

Starting from the back, there were no changes in the back four as (from left to right) Edgar Castillo, Michael Mancienne, Antonio Delamea, and Brandon Bye received the nod to start the match in front of Brad Knighton, who started in goal. Luis Caicedo was one of the new additions to the starting lineup in Week 3, he started in the midfield with Scott Caldwell and Wilfried Zahibo. The second new addition was Homegrown midfielder Diego Fagundez, who tallied his first start of the season (he was subbed on in the previous two matches) as a forward alongside Teal Bunbury. Carles Gil started in the attacking midfield role, below the forwards and slightly higher than the midfielders. The formation is effectively a 4-1-3-2, or a 4-4-2 diamond, if you will.

TAKEAWAYS

A weakness in the diamond 4-4-2: It was quite evident early on that the Revolution were attempting a new formation.  The natural flow of the game exposed some holes in the defense of Friedel and Co. that allowed Toronto to create several chances going forward.

The first example of it occurred early on, and I wrote it down in case it happened again later on in the match; which, of course, it did. The ball was bouncing around in the midfield until Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio got it settled, and played the ball out wide to their right back, Auro Jr.

The problem, though, was that because of the diamond 4-4-2, Caicedo was defending more central to account for the TFC midfielders. The resulting action was that Castillo had to step up high to pressure Auro, which left a huge gap in behind him for Nick DeLeon and Jordan Hamilton to run into. See the sequence below.

Fortunately for the Revolution, Auro opted to play the ball elsewhere, and the space wasn't utilized by the opponent. The next time it happened was in the 18th minute, only this time, the ball came from the middle and not the outside back. Again, Castillo pressed high on Auro and opened up the space in behind him. See below.

Now, we can't point any fingers at Castillo because we don't know if the outside backs were directed to press high on the opponent when they were free. But, if the goal of the system was to press on the outside players and gum up the middle of the field when the ball went there, it was flawed. Caicedo bit on DeLeon's check-down run and allowed him to make a run goal-side and receive the ball running at net. Luckily for Caicedo, he had pace on DeLeon and was able to thwart the attack and send Toronto for a deep throw-in.

Finally, the flaw caught up to the Revolution late in the match, when Brandon Bye was defending high on Osorio, and TFC left back Justin Morrow brilliantly recognized the space and shot into it just as Osorio dropped the ball back to Bradley (the timing on this TFC sequence is a pleasure to see the more I watch it).

Then, Bradley played a perfectly placed ball with his weak foot into the space behind Bye for Morrow to run onto, and the rest was history. Altidore blasted the simple, but sublime, service from Morrow and sent the Revs home with not a point to show for their efforts.

The bright side: From a different perspective, the diamond 4-4-2 wasn't all that bad of an option for the Revolution; and credit to Friedel for finding a formation that brings the best out of his players. I can't say that formation is one that I thought would work with the personnel.

Think about it. Adding an