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) /
7 of 7
Philadelphia Union, Jim Curtin
SAN JOSE, CA – SEPTEMBER 25: Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin during the MLS match between the Philadelphia Union and the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium on September 25, 2019, in San Jose, CA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Philadelphia Union

Expected formation: The Philadelphia Union will use a 4-4-2 diamond midfield. It’s the same formation they utilized in the first two games of 2020 and it’s the preferred formation of sporting director, Ernst Tanner. It’s not quite the same formation as the league’s other notable high-pressing team, Red Bulls, but it does operate in a similar fashion.

Team style: The Union will press high and press hard. Those are the biggest terms associated with Philadelphia and their preferred style. Because of their experience under manager Jim Curtin over the last few years, this team can spend time on the ball if needed. However, they will prefer to press, win the ball, and move directly to goal.

Potential success/failure: Despite their progress over the last two seasons as they transitioned from a possession style to a pressing style, the Union are still a relatively young team. Their lack of experience may play a role in this tournament depending on how adamant they are about pressing their opponents. Just as the Red Bulls may struggle in the Florida heat, so too might the Union. Unfortunately, Philadelphia do not have years of experience playing this pressing system. As such, if they do not get it right, that could lead to an early exit.

Toronto FC

Expected formation: Toronto FC played their first two matches of 2020 in a 4-4-1-1 with Alejandro Pozuelo in behind Jozy Altidore. Michael Bradley will be back following recent ankle surgery but the Reds will be missing winger Ifunanyachi Achara, meaning a likely formational switch to a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1.

Team style: Vanney wants the wingers to run in behind and striker Jozy Altidore to assist in the offensive build-up. Bradley, who is likely at the base of the three-man midfield, will be charged with playing diagonal long balls and picking out other passes in the attack. If Toronto goes with a 4-2-3-1, Bradley can play in a base midfield pairing, wingers Pablo Piatti and Erickson Gallardo can run in behind, and Pozuelo can play the attacking midfield role and pull it all together.

Next. MLS is Back: Top 5 teams to win tournament. dark

Potential success/failure: Most of Toronto’s issues do not stem from team style or formation. The Reds, which have been one of the league’s best teams in the last few years, have only struggled because of injury. The team is relatively healthy heading into Orlando, save for the recent knee injury to Achara. Since Vanney will have most of his players available, Toronto should do well in the tournament. They have been one of the most tactically flexible teams when healthy, and this bodes well for a team with success in recent knockout tournaments.