Thursday, April 14, 2011

Formation Moron: The Central Midfield

In the first four games of the season the central midfield seemed to be constant strength of the Whitecaps starting eleven.  The match against the Revolution saw that position turn from strength into possibly the Caps biggest weakness.  In the 38th minute the captain for the game, Terry Dunfield, crumpled onto the ground with a groin injury and had to be replaced by John Thorrington.  About six minutes later teenage sensation Gershon Koffie was shown a red card and ejected from the game on a questionable call.  Later in the week it was revealed that Koffie would be joining the Ghanaian national team for an African youth tournament and would be gone for a month.
Koffie and Dunfield

The Whitecaps assumed that with John Thorrington over his injury issues in the preseason would be able to handle one position but he received a new injury to his calf.  With Alex Morfaw also nursing a hand injury, the Caps had their top four central midfielders unavailable for selection.  It forced Thoradson to start rookie Jeb Brovsky and defender Alain Rochat in the middle against Houston on Sunday.  That combination didn’t work as the Whitecaps not only have much possession, they also could not muster much in offensive chances.

Everyone who follows the Whitecaps knows that Teitur has an obsession with playing the normal 4-4-2 formation and it seems like he will stick to it no matter what group of players he has to select from.  Just look at last year in Division 2 when his favourite strike pair was two midfielders, Khalfan and Cornelius Stewart.  There was hope in the preseason when he experimented with a 4-2-3-1 formation but when the season opened the Caps were back to the typical 4-4-2.  It has worked for the first four games but with Rochat having to move back to centre half, as Demerit is reinjured and Akloul is not ready for a full 90, the Caps will need a different combo in the midfield. 

There are four players available to play the central midfield in the upcoming fixture with Chivas USA, including last week’s starter Jeb Brovsky who played an adequate game.  The other options are Nizar Khalfan, who filled in twice during games due to injuries, Kevin Harmse and Davide Chiumiento.  While he is very versatile and can play multiple positions, Harmse normal spot on the pitch is as a holding midfielder.  The playmaking Chiumiento can bring his talents to the centre of the pitch but just don’t expect him to win many balls.  My choice would be Harmse, if he is deemed match fit, and Chiumiento in a 4-1-2-1-2 formation otherwise known as the 4-4-2 diamond where the Canadian international would sit in front of the back line and provide extra defensive support.

Looking back on the first 3 ½ games it’s easy to notice that Koffie rarely ever ventured into an attacking position and Dunfield was the one that would slip into the box on occasion.  Dunfield was in fact a box to box midfielder and knew when to go forward and when to drop back defensively as was so evident in the opening match when he scored and had an important blocked shot off of Jacob Peterson.  The major difference between the two formations is that Harmse will play deeper than Koffie and the wingers will have to be more responsible in coming back.  The diamond formation is also not reliant on Chiumiento being a major factor defensively as he can float around the pitch and concentrate on setting up either one of the wingers and forwards. 

Another advantage is that is if Rochat sees an opportunity to move up in the play, Harmse is right there to cover for him as he is capable of playing CB.  Chuimiento has proven he can play a full 90 minutes so if the Caps have the lead in the second half, Brovsky can be brought into the game and the formation can go back to the normal 4-4-2 with Chiumiento moving back to the outside.  As stated earlier, the wingers (Teibert and Khalfan) will have to help centrally when coming back while the fullbacks (Wagner and Leathers) will help provide width when the team moves forward with Harmse providing cover.  What the new formation allows is the opportunity for more possession and a chance to capture the lead early in the match.  Of course the biggest question is whether Teitur Thoradson will be ever to give up his addiction to the 4-4-2 formation.  I personally would not bet on it.

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