Soccer’s Next Tactical Trend

Seattle's Eddie Johnson operates against Portland in the 2013 playoffs. Credit: Joshua Weisberg -

By Tony Edwards - San Jose, CA (Nov 7, 2013) US Soccer Players - In Thursday’s column, Tony analyzes the use of two strikers, salutes Sacha Klejstan’s underrated achievements in Europe, and questions the idea of combining the coaching and director of soccer roles.

What is the next big tactical trend?

With much being made in the EPL of clubs such as Manchester City, Manchester United, and Liverpool playing with two strikers, as opposed to one striker (4-2-3-1 for instance) or a 433 that becomes a 4-5-1 in defense.

One factor that makes a two-striker formation effective is intelligent movement by the strikers. It’s not enough anymore, if it ever was, to just have a tall target forward and a quicker one. They have to read the play and understand their teammates, getting themselves into dangerous positions. It’s worth remembering that strikers such as Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Sergio Aguero, and Alvaro Negredo don’t come at MLS prices.

In MLS, we’ve been fortunate to see partnerships such as Donovan-Keane and (lately) Neagle-Johnson. What can happen in a two-striker formation, however, is that when this movement is off (as it often was for Keane on Sunday against Salt Lake), a team’s attack can become sterile quickly.

There’s dozens of factors that influence a team’s play, and formation is just a building block. Will this supposed trend to two strikers continue to teams that have fewer resources than the Manchester clubs do?

How many assists does US National Team player Sacha Klejstan have in all UEFA competitions?

Many fantastic US National Team players have graced the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, and Europa League, but no player has more assists than Klejstan’s nine in all competitions (six in the Champions League).

Klejstan had a memorable game against PSG this week, but more expansively, Anderlecht has found success since Klejstan arrived. They’ve gone from being a club that seemed to be living in the past to regular Champions League participants. They admittedly need a kinder draw than this season’s to advance to the knockout stage, but Klejstan is another example of US National Team players finding a club that trusts them to deliver.

Who holds the Seattle MLS record for most goals scored in a season?

Seattle’s had some wonderful players in their still-short MLS history. Freddie Ljundberg, Freddy Montero, Mauro Rosales, Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey. But it’s US National Team striker Eddie Johnson with 14 who holds the Seattle record.

Don Ruiz’ profile of Johnson in the Tacoma News-Tribune is an interesting look at a player who openly admits he likes to silence his doubters. Johnson has scored 19 goals in only 59 appearances for the US National Team, behind only Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore on the current national team squad.

What’s with Chicago and Columbus moving to a one person in charge of soccer operations and coaching model?

Chicago with Frank Yallop and Columbus with Gregg Berhalter turned the management clock back to the early 2000s by appointing one person both coach and director of soccer operations. Interestingly, both franchises used to split those duties.

Here’s why it’s interesting. In no other major American sport is there even a debate about the role of the manager versus that of the role of the general manager. The role of the field manager is complicated enough without getting into the roster/salary cap/scouting/organizational resources. The role of the general manager/technical director is complicated enough without getting into every day practice and game management. Is it fair to point out that paying one person is probably less expensive than paying two?

But Tony, look at Los Angeles with Bruce Arena. Look at Kansas City with Peter Vermes. Interestingly, those organizations are also ones that put significant (for MLS) resources into their staff, rosters, and operations. Here’s another question, how many coaches like Bruce Arena has American soccer produced?

Chivas USA conceded a whopping 67 goals this season. Is that the most goals against in a season?

No, but it’s in the top five. The 1998 Rapids (who finished at .500) conceded 71 goals. The MetroStars gave up 69 in 1999 and the Mutiny 68 in 2001. However, this season, Chivas matched their expansion season in 2005, when they also gave up 67 goals.

Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.

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