MLS is Back: Talking tournament tactics – Western Conference

MLS, Seattle Sounders, Brian Schmetzer (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
MLS, Seattle Sounders, Brian Schmetzer (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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LA Galaxy, Javier Hernandez
LA Galaxy, Javier Hernandez (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images) /

Houston Dynamo

Expected formation: First-year coach Tab Ramos will likely roll out a 4-3-3 for the duration of the tournament. It was Ramos’ favored formation when he coached the U.S. U20s and it’s the same formation the Houston Dynamo used in its first two games of the season. There will be more of it in Orlando.

Team style: Look for a similar style to Houston’s in-state counterparts, FC Dallas. The Dynamo want possession of the ball, but they also want the quick ball movement the 4-3-3 provides. Triangles will naturally appear, especially as the full-backs push up into space when in possession of the ball. Houston’s ball movement against the LA Galaxy was solid enough to earn a draw so Ramos will want the same effort during this tournament.

Potential success/failure: The Dynamo’s success has to come from their off-the-ball movement. In their lone goal of the season, against LA, Mauro Manotas made a great run in between the lines, received an excellent pass from full-back Zarek Valentin, and converted the opportunity. That doesn’t happen without Manotas’ smart run. Houston’s potential for failure comes down to their lack of defensive talent. The shape offers little safety net to make up for that lack of talent. It’s exactly why Sporting KC tore through Houston in a 4-0 win.

LA Galaxy

Expected formation: The Los Angeles Galaxy used a 4-3-3 system in their first two games of 2020. It was manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s preferred formation for most of 2019. Look for a lot of overlap between the full-backs and wingers out on either flank.

Team style: Unlike their 4-3-3 counterparts in Houston and Dallas, possession is not the main focus for the Galaxy. Instead, their preferred method for chance creation is crosses into the box from the wing. This stems from the overlapping full-backs on the flank. Interplay in the attacking third on either side of the field is crucial to the Galaxy’s style.

Potential success/failure: In no surprise, the Galaxy’s potential success will come from how well Javier Hernandez and Christian Pavon perform. Pavon already scored a rocket against Houston in the opening game of the season, but Chicharito severely underperformed back in March. His mediocre performance can be chalked up to Schelotto’s insistence on crossing into the box. Chicharito can score with his head but he thrives on movement in and around the box. To properly capitalize on that, LA will have to keep the ball on the ground. Luckily for LA, they have the talent to do just that. Their midfield is stacked with talent and experience. They should feed Hernandez aplenty.