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) /
6 of 6
Sporting KC, Alan Pulido
VANCOUVER, BC – FEBRUARY 29: Russell Teibert #31 of the Vancouver Whitecaps challenges Alan Pulido #9 of Sporting Kansas City during MLS soccer action at BC Place on February 29, 2020 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

Sporting KC

Expected formation: Peter Vermes’ men are going to line up in a standard 4-3-3 throughout the tournament. Just like LAFC, possession and ball movement is key for Sporting Kansas City. Their full-backs play an important role in build-up, especially with the midfielders. The full-backs also get high up the field at times to assist in attack.

Team style: Sporting used to press relentlessly in the early and mid-2010s. In the last couple of years, however, the team has moved away from a ferocious press into a more possession-based style. Expect consistent ball movement, especially through the midfield. Kansas City were excellent in the 2019 CCL first round against Liga MX side Toluca. Their passing was well-orchestrated and efficient before injuries sent their season off the rails.

Potential success/failure: SKC were one of the hottest teams before the league lockdown. Their newest additions, forward Alan Pulido and midfielder Gadi Kinda, looked fluid and well-connected with the rest of the squad. If these new players are still playing well in Orlando, Kansas City should go very deep. The only worry with Sporting is Father Time. Can Graham Zusi still give it his all at full-back? Do Matt Besler and Roger Espinoza have the legs. Moreover, with Felipe Gutierrez absent, depth in central midfield is also an issue.

Vancouver Whitecaps

Expected formation: The Vancouver Whitecaps, in their second year under head coach Marc dos Santos, lined up in a 4-4-2 in both games to start the season. However, things may look different with forwards Lucas Cavallini, Tosaint Ricketts, and Yordy Reyna opting out of the tournament. It’s possible Dos Santos goes with a 4-5-1 or 5-4-1.

Team style: The Whitecaps really struggled with an identity under dos Santos in their first season between injuries and poor roster construction. Vancouver looked content to defend in a compact structure and take their chances on the break when necessary. Without much attacking help in Orlando, expect the Whitecaps to continue with a compact defensive block deep in their own half.

Next. MLS is Back: Eastern Conference Tactics. dark

Potential success/failure: Vancouver just don’t have the firepower to compete with most teams in the league now that so many of their attackers have opted out. Their only reasonable action in this tournament is to defend as much as possible and capitalize on what few attacking chances they generate. The backline must communicate effectively and stay on the same page. Any defensive lapses will lead to goals and an early exit.