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The 6-Thought Box: Six formations to make the Crew SC more dangerous in 2015

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Berhalter said recently at media say that he would explore alternatives to the 4-2-3-1 to make the Crew SC more "dangerous" in 2015. In this weeks 6 thought box we examine 6 possible alternative formations and what it is about the Crew SC that makes them dangerous regardless of formation.

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At Columbus Crew SC's recent preseason media availability, sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter indicated that he might would explore alternatives or differences to the 4-2-3-1 to make the Crew SC more "dangerous" in 2015. In this weeks 6-thought box, we examine six possible alternative formations and what it is about  Crew SC that makes them dangerous regardless of formation.

If the 4-2-3-1 were to be stripped away, four key aspects remain as to what makes the Black and Gold a dangerous team. They are as follows:

Higuain is the focal point of the offense: Federico Higuain is the key playmaker that makes the Crew SC attack dangerous. He is highlighted as the No. 10, though his style of play allows him to play this role wherever he is deployed on the field.

Ethan Finlay's break away speed: Even after defenses got wise to Finlay's diagonal runs last year, they still couldn't stop him. He tied Higuan for the team lead in goals and assists. He also seemed to get faster and more dynamic as the game went on.

Tchani/Trapp dominant are a dominant holding midfield. Whether it's Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, or both, the glue of this team is the holding midfield. Trapp plays as a  precision linker and Tchani plays as a midfield destroyer. They could play the position at a dominant level alone, but are among the MLS, they are best together.

Waylon Francis is the best attacking left fullback in the league. He led fullbacks in assists last year with six and second place wasn't close.

These four aspects will need to be in any formation for Crew SC to be considered dangerous. Obviously players can be swapped, but here are my thoughts for 6 wrinkles Berhalter could throw in this year.

1. Deep lying  4-4-1-1 4:

Columbus Crew SC - Football tactics and formations

What's so dangerous about a deep lying formation? It lures the opposition forward and gives Finlay acres of room to get behind the defense. Higuain would also be able to stay in the number 10 role which is where he is at his best. Playing a counter attack style of soccer requires the countering team to move the ball quickly up the field and Trapp has one of the most accurate long passes in the league. This formation would be ideal for playing against attack oriented teams, as Finlay and Romain Gall would sit deeper to provide cover but also have the speed to take advantage on the counter. (Figure 1)

2. 4-3-1-2 4:

Columbus Crew SC vs Away team - Football tactics and formations
or
Crew vs Away team - Football tactics and formations

The strength of the 4-3-1-2 is the narrow triangle of attackers up front. With three attacking players running narrow, the formation creates a three v. two situation against center backs, especially in today's game with fullbacks spending so much time bombing forward. When the ball is played to Higuain he can essentially run soccer's version of the read-option. The center backs will need to cover Justin Meram or Kei Kamara, leaving Higuain free to take a shot. One center back could attempt to close down Higuain but this would leave one of the two forwards open (first formation). Higuain plays the open man the ball for an open look (second example). The speed of Finlay and Steindorsson leads to attack from the wings and with a player as creative as Higuain, he should have as many options as he wants to pick apart opposing defenses.

3. 4-2-2-2:
Columbus Crew SC - Football tactics and formations

This formation has only been ran effectively by the 1982 Brazil national team but Crew SC have the personnel to make this work. The idea behind the 4-2-2-2 is the fullbacks get free run of the wings while the sturdy 2-2-2-2 control the middle of the field. Finlay as a fullback may jump out at you, but his speed and endurance give him the ability to be dangerous on the attack as well as recover to help Parkhurst and Trapp defend down the right flank. Jimenez would also be in consideration here with his experience at the outside back position. Aaron Schoenfeld and Kamara up top gives Crew SC two forwards at 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-3 respectively, which would in theory leads to many crosses from Francis and Finlay headed home.

4. The false 9, 4-6-0:

Columbus Crew SC vs Away team - Football tactics and formations

The Black and Gold tried a version of the false 9 last year but results were underwhelming. Berhalter said he would like to revisit this with some changes. The head coach's stockpiling of attacking midfielders has created a roster that could run this formation well. The idea behind the false 9 is creating chaos. In the false 9 the traditional forward, rather than staying near the box, drifts back into the midfield. The advantage of this is one center back will typically track a forward while the other provides cover. When the "9" drops back the center back in charge of tracking him can either drift with him, leaving a large open space (diagram), and putting himself out of position in the process, or stay in his "zone" without a clear assignment. This creates confusion and a defense that is forced to react to whatever the offense decides to do. Center backs caught out of position should lead to plenty of space for Finlay to make diagonal runs, Meram to "post up" for his meat hook, Cedrick to get lost in the mix (he's only 5-foot-6 after all). Higuain has the creative brilliance to exploit whatever mismatch he sees or chip in himself just for fun.

5. The 1-2-7 or the "Parkhurst against the world" formation:

Columbus Crew SC - Football tactics and formations

The major drawback to the 1-2-7 is that is it fell out of fashion when the Scottish brought something called "passing" into the game in the 1880's. before this the centerback (Parkhurst) would bomb the ball forward and whichever of the 7 forwards got to the ball first would dribble, while the other six forwards would essentially block for him like an offensive line. This would continue until the forward would shoot or lose possession.

Berhalter may be preparing to run this, as he has been stocking up on large players of the last two years. Adam Bedell, Schoenfield, and Kamara are all 6'-foot-3 or taller, which would aid in screening for Finlay, Cedrick, Ben Speas, Meram, or Higuain when they gain possession.
Editor's Note: If this is ever seen at Crew Stadium, fans should exit the stadium immediately because something has gone very wrong.

6. 11 Steve Clarks:

Go ahead. Try and score.

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