I could spend an entire article talking about red cards or the effort by Minnesota with 10 men, but I think everything that can be said has been said. Instead, I’m going to focus on the first half, where we saw a new formation for Minnesota.
On the bus, we were talking about whether or not Minnesota would play a high pressing game. I felt that they had to, to take advantage of the inexperience in the back line for Kansas City. In addition, Minnesota has the ability and talent at the back line and at holding midfield to react to a team that beats the high press.
The 4-1-4-1 is designed for the high press, particularly when you look at where each player was playing.
With Vicentini as the only defensive midfielder, it allowed both Pitchkolan and Jordan to push up the field. While Jordan was a bit too enthusiastic in his tackles and earned a yellow card early, these two were able to control the midfield and stop the team from building from the back for most of the first half.
With the players Minnesota had in, this formation was a defensive formation, but defensive on their half of the field. The team was looking for a quick turnover and counter, and they had a couple of great chances to get on the scoring sheet. For the first half, Minnesota dominated possession and shot chances.
The other advantage the formation had is an easier ability for players to switch positions on the pitch. When Justin Davis came up the left flank, either Miguel Ibarra would slide back, or Dias would slide over and Vicentini would slide back to take a centerback role.
Ramirez had a couple great chances on goal and he just couldn’t get them on target. This is a struggle he’s had at times during the season, but it was good to see that he never gave up on it. With Pitchkolan and Jordan underneath him, he didn’t get as good of service from the middle of the field, but Mendes in particular was able to give him a couple of great passes that were just a bit too long for Ramirez to get to.
Miguel Ibarra was out wide, which unfortunately left him out of some of the plays. He appears to be stronger and able to link up with Ramirez better from the center midfield spot, than from a wide position. Still, by being wide, he was given space and made a number of great runs with the ball at his feet.
Jordan struggled in the second half when he was in the middle and had to lead the attack out of the back, but in the first half he was strong on his tackles. Pitchkolan was similarly strong on his tackles, but both had a bit of trouble making those final passes into the box that a center midfielder needs to be able to make.
Mendes was fantastic out on the right wing, and found space and had some great passes and shots. When he is out on the wing, as a fan you breathe easier. You know he will tackle and track the ball well, as well as make some great runs with or without the ball.
I know I said I wouldn’t talk about the red card, but I feel it’s necessary. It’s hard not to get frustrated with Dias for the red card. While it was harsh, it was not a completely unreasonable red card.
I want to point out where that play happened. Because of the press, and the high line the defense played, Dwyer was receiving a header near midfield and Dias was tracking up that high. That’s fantastic.
By pushing the on side line up near midfield, and trusting the fullbacks and centerbacks to be able to react to a run or through ball, the team condensed the field that they had to cover and defend. When Sporting Kansas City had the ball, the game often looked bunched and crowded, which makes it much harder for the offense to move the ball effectively up the field.
Should they keep playing this formation?
I would like to see the team keep up with this formation. I would like to see Miguel Ibarra move back into the center of the field however, giving him the flexibility to make runs all over the field.
Manny Lagos hasn’t found a left midfielder that he is happy with yet though as he hasn’t settled on Bracallello or Jamie Watson and this formation allowed all three of the holding midfielders to start. Expect to see the team play a couple different formations during the friendly against Mexico U-21.