A friendly is a time for experimentation, which made the line-up that was trotted out for the first half both surprising and expected. Expected, as the formation was different from anything we’ve seen from Minnesota this season. Surprising in that the starting eleven is likely to be similar next weekend when league play starts up again.
Minnesota came out in a 4-3-3 with a lot of fluid movement between the midfielders and the forwards. Wes Burdine thought it looked like a diamond at times, which a 4-3-3 can slip into quickly if the center forward falls back into the midfield.
Starting Line-up for Minnesota vs. Mexico U-21
Looking at the formation, the 3 midfielders tended towards the center of the field, which gave a lot of room for Davis and Venegas to push way up the field, both on offense and defense. When the fullbacks pushed forward, one of the midfielders, usually Vicentini, would slip back between the centerbacks, creating a 3 centerback look.
In some ways, this looked like some of the 3 back formations that have been popular at the World Cup this year for Chile and the Netherlands.
This formation is an evolution of the 4-2-3-1 that Minnesota had been playing, as the fullbacks in that formation also pushed forward. In the 4-2-3-1, there were 2 midfielders wide in the formation. In the 4-3-3, the 3 midfielders were in the middle of the field, meaning that the fullbacks were required to provide the width along the sideline.
The 4-3-3 also allows the 11 best players to find their best place on the field. The game against Kansas City showed that Jordan is better coming out of the back than playing up in the midfield. Also, Watson in the middle allows him to play to his strength of distributing and passing in the attack. In addition, Venegas has looked fantastic in his overlapping runs, and with 3 center midfielders, there is always someone to slip back into the back line to cover a run.
Overlapping runs and Total football
This game continued Minnesota’s growth in fluid play and interchanging play. The three forwards were given the freedom to roam around the field, making diagonal runs through each other’s zones. By being able to switch sides and find space where it exists in the attacking third, Minnesota will create a lot of opportunities in the Fall Season.
The Midfielders were also given a lot of freedom to move around the field, with both Jordan and Pitchkolan moving from sideline to sideline to provide support and spring the attack.
The Second Half
It’s tough to get much out of the second half when substitutes were brought on because the team went down to 9 men fairly early in the half. It was great to see the team still push forward and have chances on goal even a man down, including an amazing rainbow pass from Ibarra to Ramirez near death.
For the future
Will we see the 4-3-3 again this Fall? It seems likely because it allows Jordan, Pitchkolan and Vicentini all to play in their favored positions. With the 4-2-3-1, Lagos didn’t have room for all three. The 4-3-3 also pushed Ibarra farther forward, allowing him to be involved in more attacks, while pushing Watson inside, which seemed more natural for him than the wing.
Don’t expect Minnesota to be as dominating this Fall as they were in the Spring, but expect them to be competitive in every game. They might experiment a bit, but Lagos should be able to keep the team engaged and ready.