So I am a bit behind on listening to Black and Red United and have been catching up recently. Two episodes ago there was a comment that a formation change wouldn't fix anything because the talent on the field is limited and that's the issue for DC United. I was wondering what the site's readers thought about that. To me that was an incorrect statement.
Formations can be overrated but different formations ask different things of players and can grow or diminish the issues a player has on the pitch. For example, Boswell is too slow to be a CB in back 4 but in a back 3 with an extra CB his speed is less of an issue. Looking through the team I see a bunch of issues that can be mitigated with a formation change.
Let's say DC goes to a 3-4-2-1 formation which falls back into a back 5 when pressured -- I'd run out a formation that looks like this:
Robinson/Franklin - Boswell/Opare - Birnbaum
Nyarko/Odoi Atsem - Harkes - ?? - Kemp
Acosta - Mullins - ??
So let's work through this. Robinson and Franklin both have similar issues playing CB, namely, they are too small to be a traditional CB. Well here Boswell and Birnbaum help cover that deficiency. Boswell's major issue is that he's sooo slow. Well here he'd have cover on his right flank from either Robinson or Franklin. Two major CB issues are somewhat fixed by going to this system. Very basic analysis here but if two CBs can't do the job adding a 3rd could help.
DC doesn't have a plethora of elite wide players to fill both backs and wings every game so removing 2 wide players by going to a 3-4-2-1 helps mitigate a serious weakness for this club.On the right flank DC can play Nyarko, DeLeon, or Odoi-Atsem. All 3 can run and can cross. However, they are not great defenders but they have cover behind them from a faster CB in Robinson or Franklin. Having 3 options helps mitigate for Nyarko's age and Odoi's youth. The left flank is ready made for Kemp who can cross about as well as any MLS left back. This formation let's him worry less about defense but he still can defend when needed. DC does not have a ready made parter for Harkes right now in a midfield 3 but here they can rotate between Sarvas, DeLeon, Jeffrey, Vincent, and Durkin and see who pairs best with Harkes. Now, however, they will have a 3rd CB behind them to help cover for them if they get beat. No longer does DC need a CDM (which they clearly don't have on their senior roster). Instead they can look for a more box-to-box midfielder that fits better with what this roster has.
DC's other major issue is attacking where they aren't scoring enough. Here Acosta moves forward where he can be more of a scoring threat. Mullins is having a down year but he's good at running behind the defense and with wingbacks the service to Mullins drifting wide is easier (there won't be another DC winger in the way). Then DC can pair those two with a variety of attacking options. If they want more than another #10 type they can play Buscher. They can rotate in a bunch of half-winger, half-striker types like Neagle, Sam, and Le Toux. Now they will be more central and a bigger scoring threat than out wide. Also, our striker is no longer on his own holding up the ball against two CBs, a weakness all of our strikers have. In a 3-4-2-1 he'd have two other attacking options near him to quickly move the ball and not be sooo isolated.
I'm not saying a 3-4-2-1 fixes everything. I just think formations do matter and can help mitigate issues a roster has. I thought that the comment in the podcast was correct in some ways (there is a talent shortage) but also very incorrect in other ways (like Ben having no alternative options).