The Columbus Crew have a weakness that D.C. United might be able to exploit. And all it would take is a shift in formation. But does Ben Olsen have the cajones to do it?
Unfortunately I wasn't able to participate in this week's episode of Filibuster due to a certain debt that had to paid to America's Hat, but I was sure to listen, and you should too. Because we learned something important from our guest, Patrick Guldan of Massive Report. In helping us preview the huge upcoming match between D.C. United and the Columbus Crew, Patrick shared a weakness that Columbus' opponents might be able to exploit.
The back line of the Crew apparently doesn't do well when faced with high pressure from the opposition. The Crew are at their best when Federico Higuain has the opportunity to build an attack out of the midfield, and when Eddie Gaven is running wild on the wings. But when Chad Marshall and the rest of the Columbus defense is under pressure, they're forced to bypass the midfield and play a long ball style that just doesn't suit their side.
Is this a weakness that United can exploit?
Well, maybe. But not by playing with the tactical approach that Ben Olsen has been utilizing in recent matches. Providing high pressure is definitely one of Lionard Pajoy's strengths, but he can't do it alone, especially not on a field the size of RFK. If United strands Pajoy at the top of a Christmas Tree formation, the Crew will have plenty of room to move the ball around the back line, and time to distribute to Higuain and the Columbus wingers.
This has me wondering if another recent tactical approach might be a better fit against the Crew. Remember when United employed the rare 4-3-3 formation in an excellent performance against the New York Red Bulls last month? Its a formation specifically designed to keep an opponent's back line under pressure, and it might be the best way to exploit the Crew's weakness.
Unfortunately for us at this moment, the lineup that worked so well against the Red Bulls included Dwayne De Rosario as the center forward. We won't have that luxury on Saturday. Instead, we might see the return of Maicon Santos to the starting lineup, taking over that central role. In this arrangement, Pajoy would drift out to the right and Chris Pontius would would serve as the left attacking winger, a position that might actually be his very best.
Of course this formation might upset some United fans though when viewing the midfield, because there wouldn't necessarily be a place for Branko Boskovic in the starting lineup. The 4-3-3 requires the midfielders to have a high work ethic and cover a lot of ground. That just isn't Boskovic's game. So if this is the formation we'll see (even if just for a portion of the match), the midfield would probably have to feature Marcelo Saragosa, Perry Kitchen, and Nick DeLeon.
Do I want United to use this formation? Hard to say. Do I think they'll use this formation? No. No I don't. I think that with only one point separating United from the playoffs, Olsen will opt for a more conservative approach.
But I'll ask you guys the same questions. Do you want United to use this formation? Or more critically, do you think they will?