After reading a very insightful article over at Tomkin Times, a website that writes about Liverpool, it got me thinking about how who starts on the left wing changes our offense dramatically.
Both Bracalello and Watson are gifted soccer players, but they each bring something different to the position of left midfielder. Part of the difference lay in the teams they were playing against, and each adjusted his game accordingly. In addition, though, each player has different strengths, and it changes how they play the position, and how others play off them.
Watson plays more as a target forward on the left side, with his back to the goal, ready to link up with other players around him. He also drifts in towards the middle of the field, sometimes with the ball at his feet. This has a profound impact on what the other players on the pitch are doing.
When Watson receives the ball, he’s likely to cut inside with a move or a pass, or drop it off to Davis moving up the sideline. Watson’s positioning leaves a lot more space for Davis to move forward or Ibarra to make a run or carry the ball to the left corner. Ramirez takes a more central spot in front of goal, or even positions himself on the left side of the box to receive a pass from Watson.
Against FC Edmonton, the movement by Ibarra and Ramirez, with Watson vacating the sideline of the attacking third, Ibarra was able to make a number of runs towards the end line and then pass it in. By Watson staying back a bit, it opens up this space for Ibarra or Ramirez to make runs to the near post or corner.
With Watson, there is a lot more interplay between wing and the fullback, with the purpose to open up a passing lane or a run towards goal through short, quick passes. The fullback, Davis, will also make more crosses into the box. Take a look at the illustration, and you can see how some of the players around him will react to the movement he makes on the pitch.
Bracalello, on the other hand, tends toward the sideline much more and plays with the ball at his feet. A number of times against Indy he took the ball to the endline, and looked to cross it in to the box.
Ibarra had less room to run on the left, but there was more space at the top of the box and at the far post. When Bracalello pushes forward with the ball at his feet, the defense collapses on him, which then opens up the far post and the top of the box. Looking at the first goal, Mendes had space to move in towards the middle of the box because of Bracalello’s run.
This movement on his part directly led to two of the three goals. Indy had a weak spot at right back, so against another team, Bracalello will likely not have the same ability to carry the ball to the endline and pass it back into the box.
Davis has less room to move up the left side, because Bracalello is taking up the space Davis would move into. Against Indy, there was much more movement up the right side by the defense than the left side. Dias also drifted forward on occasion because Bracalello left open space on the left side closer to the middle.
Nonetheless, Bracalello’s strength lies in his ball control and his pace, and he is much more likely to try to move the ball along the sideline than Watson is, whose strengths so far lie in passing and positioning.
Take a look at how the players positioned themselves on the opening goal by Ramirez against Indy when Bracalello carried the ball up to the endline.
Both players play the left wing well, and offer a number of attacking options for the team. The way they play the position differs though, which changes up the tactics of the other members of the team. It will be informative to see who starts against Cosmos, as we will be given an idea of what tactics Manny Lagos thinks will allow Minnesota the best chance on goal, short link up play or long runs up the sideline.