Minnesota United FC beat Indy Eleven on a surprisingly brisk and windy night. While the scoreline was 3-2, both goals were caused by mistakes by Minnesota United FC players. One was an own goal by Bracallello, and the other was on a penalty kick after a hand ball in the box by Watson. The fact that these wide midfielders was so far back playing defense shows a tactical shift on the part of Minnesota from their first few games, which becomes apparent by the formation that Minnesota lined up in.
The Formation: 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1?
Defense: Davis, Dias, Calvano, Venegas
Midfield: Bracallello, Pitchkolan, Vincentini, Mendes
Forwards: Ibarra, Ramirez
Watson and Daley found themselves on the bench after struggling to help advance the ball against Edmonton. Also, Floyd Franks was on bench with the return of Vincentini. Looking over the starting line-up, the formation was listed as a 4-4-1-1. Whereas in the first three games, the lineup was listed as a 4-2-3-1, against Indy Eleven it appeared to have changed. If you are interested in learning more about the 4-2-3-1, I wrote a brief article about the basics of the formation.
In some ways though, the difference between a 4-4-1-1 and a 4-2-3-1 is semantics, the difference lying in the wide midfielders pushing up farther in the 4-2-3-1. In fact, at times during the game, Minnesota shifted back and forth between the two formations.
There were even times on the attack when the formation became a 3-4-3, with the fullback bringing the ball up past the midfield line. This ability to change tactics as the flow of the game dictates is one of the reasons that Minnesota has been able to so quickly shift from defense to offense and find success on the counter attack and has not been caught out of position.
Movement and Flexibility
The players themselves also seemed to switch individual positions more frequently in this game as well. There were times when Calvano from his centerback spot would find himself carrying the ball up the right sideline or Cristiano Dias supporting the attack from far over the midfield line.
In each case, there was a teammate helping by falling back to cover for them as they pushed forward. While not total football, the ability to be flexible and allow players to exploit mismatches and space opened up a number of the counter attacks during the game.
But the 4-4-1-1 was correct in a sense
Both Mendes and Bracallello sat farther back than Watson and Daley typically did, helping to support the fullbacks in covering the sidelines. Part of that is likely because Indy plays a much more attacking form of soccer than Edmonton did. The team was also up 2-0 and then 3-1, which means for most teams bringing more players out of the attack and into the defense. Unfortunately, it did backfire a bit for Minnesota with both goals coming from mistakes by wide midfielders in the box. That can be put down as bad luck more than the formation being at fault.
The defense was once again very stout for much of the game. Neither goal was caused by the defense, but they were not without their lapses. For a period in the first half, the defense gave Indy Eleven too much space, which they exploited and which ultimately led to the own goal.
The struggle in earlier games was covering crosses in to the box, but during this game, Indy did not have solid chances from crosses. Instead, the chances for Indy Eleven came on breakaways, but the defense was able to recover and disrupt the shot enough that few were serious shots on goal.
Van Okel once again was stellar in goal. This game he came off his line with more confidence, punching the ball out of the box or grabbing balls on fast breaks. With the defense in front of him, he can take more risks to stop attacks and shots.
While the midfield didn’t keep control of the ball as well as they would have liked, they were excellent on the counter attack. Bracallello had great touches and control along the left side, which allowed Ibarra to move without the ball and get open. Having two players on the pitch who can beat defenders with the ball at their feet.
Mendes was a great addition on the right side. While he did score, he did not have the pace that Daley has. His strength against Indy Eleven lies in playing incredible tight defense on turnovers in the middle third of the field. Indy struggled to move the ball up Minnesota’s right side due to the pressure he put on the players.
With Vicentini in the lineup, Pitchkolan pressed up the field more than he had, which lead to him having a great goal from 20 yards out.
Ibarra again had a great game, with an assist on Pitchkolan’s goal. Ramirez had a tap in on a miss hit shot by Mendes. Still, Ramirez had a couple of great looks at goal and missed them. Against other teams, those chances will need to be converted because they will be harder to come by.
Manny Lagos switched up the line-up again and it led to a win again. He’s got the team working together and responding well to adversity. He is not a coach to sub just because he still has a substitution left, which left some strong players on the bench.
Another game, another win
While there are things that could be improved on, the team has 4 wins in 4 games and finds themselves 3 points clear of the second place team. It doesn’t get much better than that.