MLS is Back: Talking tournament tactics – Eastern Conference

MLS, Toronto FC, Alejandro Pozuelo (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
MLS, Toronto FC, Alejandro Pozuelo (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
6 of 7
Inter Miami, Orlando City, Nani
MLS, Inter Miami, Orlando City, Nani (Photo by Andrew Katsampes/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

New York Red Bulls

Expected formation: The New York Red Bulls will almost certainly line up in a 4-4-2 that sometimes shifts into a 4-2-2-2. This formation is used across all the Red Bull-owned teams and is the vehicle through which the team executes its high-pressing style. Under manager Chris Armas, New York have occasionally tried a 4-3-3, so that formation may appear in Orlando, too.

Team style: Red Bull teams are always be associated with a high-pressing style. Expect a high defensive line and tireless work-rate from the midfield and offensive players as they apply pressure and win second balls. However, Armas sometimes dials back the pressing in favor of occasional spells of possession.

Potential success/failure: If the two games in March are any indication, New York could be in for a wild ride. After leading 2-0 over Cincinnati early, they allowed two second-half goals, effectively letting Cincinnati back in the game. Against Real Salt Lake, they conceded a 91st-minute goal to draw 1-1 despite opening the scoring in the 12th minute. New York’s penchant for blowing leads can even be traced back to their opening-round playoff loss in 2019 to Philadelphia, in which the Union came back from two goals down on two separate occasions. The Red Bulls live and die by the press and the Orlando heat may prevent the team from playing the way they want.

Orlando City

Expected formation: Orlando City played in a 4-2-3-1 in their first match against Salt Lake but played then used a 5-3-2 in their second game against Colorado. The defensive 5-3-2 was likely the result of playing on the road in Colorado. Head coach Oscar Pareja could roll out either formation for the MLS is Back Tournament.

Team style: Regardless of the formation Orlando play, expect the Lions to sit back and counter. They conceded most possession on the road to Colorado and barely won the possession battle against RSL (just 51% possession) at home. Their lone goal against Colorado was the product of a brief spell of possession, albeit late in the game as Orlando looked for an equalizer.

Potential success/failure: All of Orlando’s success hinges on their attack. Nani and Chris Mueller need to get into space every chance they get and Dom Dwyer has to put away his chances. If Orlando plan on counter-attacking deep into the tournament, they need attacking midfielder Mauricio Pereyra to be at his best in linking up the attack from back to front. He wasn’t able to do much in his first eight matches with the club between this year and last year, but this tournament may provide an opportunity for a break-out performance from the Uruguayan.