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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MLS, Carlos Vela
MLS, Carlos Vela (Photo by Ray Carranza/Getty Images) /


Expected formation: Bob Bradley will use a 4-3-3 as he’s done the entirety of his tenure as Los Angeles FC head coach. The full-backs will push high in attack, overlapping inverted wingers who have the opportunity to roam in and around the box, especially reigning league MVP Carlos Vela. Bradley may also deploy a false nine.

Team style: LAFC want possession of the ball, but not in the same way as Houston or Colorado. Players use natural triangles and rapid ball movement to keep possession, while ruthlessly counter-pressing whenever the ball is lost to the opposing team. Expect the team to keep a high line of pressure as well.

Potential success/failure: LAFC’s success is easy to predict because of their spectacular 2019 Supporters’ Shield winning season. Their possession, passing, and counter-pressing is the best in the league and it will lead to success in Orlando. Their issue will be how they deal with Carlos Vela’s absence. The league MVP has not traveled with the team. Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez will have to step up in the wide areas, while Adama Diomande or Bradley Wright-Phillips could lead the line.

Minnesota United

Expected formation: Minnesota United played both of their first two games in a 4-2-3-1. They will continue to play that way in Orlando. Adrian Heath’s team likes to attack with their front four, especially in transition after winning the ball.

Team style: The Loons excelled in transition in the first two games of the season. They are, for the most part, content to sit back and pick their moments to attack the opposition. This approach led to two solid wins to start the season. Their set-piece play also contributed to those wins.

Potential success/failure: Ike Opara, who won Defender of the Year last year, is missing the tournament. His absence is going to play a big factor in how the defense remains organized. Outside of that, Minnesota will need their attackers to consistently produce on the counter-attack. The team fared well in last year’s U.S. Open Cup but struggled to score in the final despite playing up a man for the final 15 minutes. Their lack of scoring also forced an early exit in the playoffs. If they can score after getting out on the break as they did earlier in the season, their defense should hold up enough for the Loons to make a solid tournament run.