BSJ Match #7 Breakdown: Revolution 2, D.C. United 1 – Tweaked formation earns points on the road

Although the personnel was the same we've seen from the club as of late, the formation looked slightly different from what it normally was over the last couple of weeks. It allowed certain players to find their preferred space to receive the ball and aided the defense in various stages of the game. In the end, the team was able to put in the effort to bring three points home behind good finishing efforts from Gustavo Bou and Teal Bunbury.

Let's look at the starting 11...

[caption id="attachment_580609" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Headshots from[/caption]

The Revolution coaching staff opted to roll the team out in a 4-4-2 on Tuesday night. The formation shown in the image above is general, since some of the forwards and midfielders switched positions throughout the different phases of the game. With that being said, Adam Buksa and Cristian Penilla started up top as the two forwards, with Teal Bunbury and Gustavo Bou playing the outside midfield. Kelyn Rowe and Matt Polster played in the center midfield. Across the back it was Alexander Buttner, Henry Kessler, Andrew Farrell, and Brandon Bye. Matt Turner started in goal.


The formation

While it's tough to argue one way or another which formation the Revolution are playing in at any given time, I'm going to say that they were - generally - playing in a 4-4-2 in this game. I know that it morphed and changed in the different stages of the game, but take a look at the players' positions at the 1-minute mark.

I felt like I had to include that image to back the formation image that I included above. Since Bruce Arena took over the team, we know that he has often switched between a 4-5-1 and a 4-4-2. But now that Carles Gil is no longer an option, it's clear Bruce Arena and the rest of the coaching staff is still trying to figure out the formation that works for them.

Now, the best part about this formation for New England is that it allows Bou to roam where he likes across the top of the field. He doesn't necessarily play as a forward and that helps to relieve some of the pressure off of his back when he's receiving the ball with his back to goal. His heat map helps to show how free he's allowed to be in the system that they ran on Tuesday night, often roaming into the middle and the right side of the field.

[caption id="attachment_580805" align="aligncenter" width="430"] Heat map from In this map, the Revs played from right to left.[/caption]

I also think this formation is a great fit for Matt Polster. After watching on Tuesday, it's far more clear what the club wants from him on the field; cover ground, play conservatively from a positioning perspective, and bring physical play to the midfield/back line. He has a good mind positionally; he sinks in between Farrell and Kessler when the team is packed in and defending, and gets gets forward to provide support for the attack when they're pressing forward.

However, I do think this formation does hurt one individual, and that's Adam Buksa. The problem? I think Bou's floating around below Buksa (essentially in the attacking midfield space) clogs his channels to receive the ball from the defenders and midfielders. Further, I think Buksa is generally playing in Bou's shadow right now. Bou loves to get on the ball and he has a bit of flair that Buksa doesn't have so I don't think their styles of play have found a way to mesh yet.

On-ball movement

In addition to the tweaked formation, I noticed that the team often trended into a certain shape when building out of the back. The movement shape I'm talking about only occurs when the center backs are on the ball and not under any pressure.

Essentially, when that is the case, either center back is on the ball and they both push to the outside of the pitch; which leaves a huge gap between the two of them. Once this happens - or while it's happening - Matt Polster will sink deeper out of his position until he is virtually acting as a third center back. Polster knows that he likely won't receive the ball, but he's there as a positional safety net in case the ball is turned over and the opponent counters.

The other benefit of that movement is that it opens up space in the midfield for the other midfielders/forwards to occupy and create. Take a look at the below image, and picture a scenario where Kessler is on the ball.

So Kessler is on the ball, Polster is sitting between the center backs, and the outside backs are free to push high. The end result is all of the leftover space in the midfield. That space is an empty drawing board for the creative and explosive players to find ways to get on the ball and build the attack.

Thus, I present an example (from Tuesday night's game) of this movement working as it should for the Revolution.