The Redskins have a tendency to sign players that they think are good, and then try to make them fit within the system of whatever coach they have at the time. We've seen this repeatedly with Jason Campbell. The team drafted him because they liked his arm, with no consideration for how he would fit within the offense of Joe Gibbs or Al Saunders. And then when the team was looking for a new offensive coach, did they select one who would work well with Cambell? Nope, they picked a coach in Jim Zorn whose offense requires a certain skill set from a quarterback that Campbell does not possess. Oh and let's not forget how the team took an all-pro right defensive end in Jason Taylor and moved him to the left. And now they're trying to do the same thing with Brian Orakpo.
Compare that with DC United and you get the exact opposite. It's like they overthink their lineup instead. Tom Soehn's strategy over the past few years has been to try to tailor his starting lineup to the number of quality starters he has at each position. So when the team has a lot of attacking midfielders, but not very many defenders, Soehn's idea is to start as many attacking midfielders as possible, and as few defenders as possible.
I went back and found this quote in the Soccer Insider on 3/17/09:
Said Bryan Namoff: "Just because there are so many new faces, our ability to stay more compact defensively is better right now in that 3-5-2. During the long run, we might compare to other teams a little bit better with a 4-4-2, but at this point in time, the 3-5-2 position allows us defensively to be a little stronger."
Sounds to me like the main reason we used a three-man backline early in the year was because... We had new faces? Now that we've had essentially the same roster for almost a whole season, isn't it time to move away from that?
So which strategy is better? Neither. More a balance between the two. I would much rather see United pick a formation that fits our style of play and stick to it. Then put the best players on the field in the right place within that formation. But equally importantly, if we don't have good enough defenders and if we don't have the two-way wingers to play with a 3-5-2, don't use it.
After our results in Chicago, I think we'll start to see the 4-4-2 formation more often at this point. In fact, I think we probably would have seen it last night if Julius James was available. But wait... Should we let the absence of one player determine our formation? Or should we select a formation first based on matchup and then select the players? Any of the following backlines would have worked better last night: Namoff-Janicki-Jakovic-Burch or Namoff-McTavish-Jakovic-Burch or Namoff-Jakovic-Burch-John. By the way, why hasn't McTavish played defense at all this season?