With so many different additions to the Whitecaps over the last year, head man Teitur Thoradson has had to make some changes to the formation he will employ in the MLS. In the past few season in Thoradson has employed a very traditional 4-4-2 formation in Division 2 soccer. However, without any proven strikers last year there was a lack of scoring and the Whitecaps were forced to play many goalless draws. The Caps also were without significant speed in the wide midfield and Teitur did not want get caught defensively which is why both Davies and Wagner would hang back and fill the box with crosses. Because the outside midfielders didn’t attack the box there would be very little the fullbacks could do offensively and the Whitecaps relied on the central midfielders to support the attack which exposed the defense.
Now fast forward to the some of the preseason training session and matches where after new additions through the summer window and expansion draft the Whitecaps have moved from the traditional 4-4-2 and have experimented with a 4-2-3-1 formation. While this formation seems defensive in plain sight it is quite flexible as it allows wide players to join the attack. The infusion of speed and skill out wide (Salinas, Teibert, and Rochat), tackling and distribution centrally (Dunfield, Thorrington and Koffie) and creativity up front (Chiumiento) can allow this shift of formations. The only component missing was a target man in the box with touch which management has now delivered with the signing of designated player Eric Hassli.
Now with a striker now signed and on the roster and assuming that injury issues are resolved this is what I see as the regular starting line-up. Chiumiento starts behind Hassli with Salinas wide on the right side, with the ability to switch to the left, and Teibert on the left side, if the staff feel he's ready, ahead of another youngster Nanchoff who is injured. There would be two holding midfielders with Dunfield, Thorrington as starters and youngsters Brovsky and Koffie backing them up. The backline will have DeMerit, Akloul and Janicki centrally, Rochat as the left back and Leathers on the right side.
On the attack, Chiumiento will be the key in the middle of the field where he will be able to link with Dunfield, Thorrington and the backline and then distribute the ball forward to the attacking players Hassli, Salinas and Teibert. This will allow Thoradson to take advantage of the speed and crossing ability of his wide players in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Both Salinas and Teibert have the pace on the outside and have good technical skills when on the attack and it will be Chiumiento job to find these two and Hassli as the lone striker up top. When Salinas and Teibert move towards the box, pushing defenders backwards, it will give space allowing Rochat and Leathers to move up into the attack and essentially become midfielders out wide. Both fullbacks possess the pace and skills to jump into the attack and then move back into a defensive position when possession is lost. The 4-2-3-1 formation when on the attack will actually become a 2-4-1-3 formation and will allow the Whitecaps to apply full pressure on the opponent’s defense and create scoring oppotunities.
This formation also allows Thoradson to revert back to the more comfortable 4-4-2 when playing in the defensive half or with the lead late in the game. Salinas and Teibert would just move back and play along Dunfield and Thorrington as they are both solid tacklers and would not be out of place in those positions. Because of Dunfield and Thorrington playing as defensive midfielders, Thoradson is not reliant on Chiumiento to track back to their own box where being a defensive player is not one of his strongest attributes. However Hassli does have a good defensive work rate and could play as a midfielder if the team wants to play a 4-5-1.
Finding the right man to play the box was the most important piece to complete the formation and now Hassli is this player. He has the ability to connect with the crosses coming in and is strong enough to hold up the ball as the midfielders and fullbacks join the attack. Hassli also has enough speed and technical ability to force the opposition to back up early which will open up holes for Chiumiento, Salinas and Teibert as they come forward.
The 4-2-3-1 has the defensive capabilities to allow the Caps to both shut down attacks and the offensive counter attack to optimize on their scoring chances. This formation helps Thoradson take advantage of the playmaking skill of Chiumiento and speed he has assembled on the outside of the pitch. Obviously this is just my opinion and I promise not to take any credit if the formation works this year.
Special thanks and shout out to the Score's Kristian Jack for guidance and help putting this together.