On Jan. 26, Orlando City acquired Colombian midfielder Carlos Rivas from Deportivo Cali. Almost immediately, Lions Head Coach Adrian Heath began playing Rivas as a striker in his 4-2-3-1 system. But we've learned this year that Rivas cannot play as a lone striker.
Rivas has assets that make him a desirable player -- most notably his speed and powerful shot. However, he has struggled mightily this season as a lone striker, despite Heath's repeated attempts to play him at the position, often out of necessity.
Because Orlando City plays with just one striker, that player needs certain attributes to succeed. Some of these skills include being able to hold the ball and shield defenders as the midfielders push forward into the attack. If the striker can't do this, he will most likely lose the ball and end any threat of an attack.
Listed at 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds, Rivas is usually one of the smallest players on the field. Because of this, if he does attempt to hold the ball or shield defenders, he's easily pushed off the ball. Also, likely due to his size, Rivas sometimes refuses to attempt to hold the ball or shield defenders, deciding instead to attack them. However, he has a tendency to quickly lose the ball and the Lions are immediately put back on defense.
With two strikers this may not be a problem, but with Heath's formation, the striker must be able to hold the ball for the Lions to get numbers forward. Rivas' inability to do this makes him a liability at that position in this system.
Another problem for Rivas is his knack of being offside. Rivas has appeared in 16 games this season with five of those appearances being at striker. In those appearances, Rivas has been caught offside an astounding 12 times with most of those being as a striker.
While some of these instances can be blamed on balls being played late, too often Rivas has been offside at the beginning of his run. It's also Rivas' responsibility to time his run so he stays onside. If balls are continually being played to him late, he should account for that when making his run.
The fact that Rivas is unable to play as a lone striker successfully in Heath's system was evident Saturday night against FC Dallas. Rivas was caught offside three times in the game, as his teammates attempted to play him through. Rivas also showed his inability to hold the ball and shield defenders, which usually ended with him being pushed off the ball or simply losing the ball to the defender.
These problems meant that Orlando City had difficulty sustaining an attack, which contributed to them being shut out. When Heath made an adjustment and replaced him with the 6-foot-4, 208-pound Pedro Ribeiro, a player whose strength is holding the ball and shielding defenders, the Lions immediately were able to get more numbers forward. With Ribeiro, who had started in the midfield, now at striker and Rivas on the wing, the Lions were equipped to build their attack as the system requires.
This season, Heath has inexplicably continued to play Rivas at striker, despite the fact that, in his preferred system, the Colombian's small size is a detriment to the team. The problems with this decision were on full display Saturday night in Orlando City's loss to FC Dallas.
Heath did make up for the error in judgement in the second half by moving Rivas into the midfield and replacing him with Ribeiro. However, Heath has yet to acknowledge that Rivas cannot play striker in his 4-2-3-1 formation. And as long as Rivas continues to play that position, Orlando City's offensive woes will continue during those games.