Orlando City conceded five goals on Sunday afternoon on the way to a 5-3 loss to New York City FC. The 3-4-3 formation is the popular scapegoat for the team's defensive woes, but how much fault goes to the formation and how much to the goalkeeper? Tally Hall has been exceptional the last few matches, but conceding five goals is a nightmare for the netminder. We take a look at the five-goal night for New York City FC and whether the formation or Tally Hall is to blame.
Defending with the 3 Backs
In an earlier piece, I talked about how playing a flat four is how most teams play across the world. On Sunday, Orlando City played a 3-4-3, which, though unconventional, can be made into a flat back four. The key is for the outside midfielder on the weak side to drop back and be the fourth back as seen in the diagrams above. If this happens, Orlando City is defending in a 4-3-3 and sometimes in a 4-3-2-1. The field at Yankee Stadium, which is smaller than other fields in MLS, makes this formation easier to run, as there is less space to cover.
Goal 1: David Villa
This is a long ball over the top to Villa with Sean St. Ledger on his back. St. Ledger has no cover and he gets spun around by one of the best strikers in MLS. Collin is too far up, Hines is late coming over, and Ashe is really late to drop back, and Villa hits a ball to the near post. When this goal played in real time, I thought Hall's positioning was off and almost every commentator in the world says the cardinal sin of goalkeeping is being beat near post. If you want to see an example of that, see Cyle Larin's first goal on Josh Saunders
If you take a look at this picture its going to clear Hall on the positioning aspect. This is just after impact. Hall is to the left of St. Ledger -- if he is two steps to his right, he is completely screened and won't be able to see the shot. In the video you can see Hall take a small jump to the left in an effort to see the ball. David Villa's individual skill, along with no help for St. Ledger is the issue on the goal.
Verdict: Formation 30% David Villa 60% Tally Hall 10%
Goal 2: Javier Calle
This starts out as an innocent cross into the box. Collin has to make a decision and he makes the correct one tactically and goes to mark Villa, who is holding the run.
Eric Avila has no clue there is someone at the back post, as he also goes to mark Villa. If Avila is dropped further back, he might be able to see the far post run. Hall has his back to the far post and he is unable to communicate to Avila the back post player is there. Hall is positioned on the near post with two defenders on the ball and the ball is played where he might be able to dive across and get it. The formation and defensive space is off, Avila is not fit for the formation, Hall might be able to get to the ball but it goes through players.
Verdict: Formation 90% Hall-10%
Goal 3: David Villa (2nd)
Villa gets the ball, cuts inside, and the ball deflects off one of the defenders. St. Ledger goes forward to confront Kwadwo Poku and the back four shape is off. Collin is a little out of position and he may be able to confront this better, but this is a combo of luck and skill.
Verdict: 20%-Formation 10%-David Villa 70%-Unlucky
Goal 4: Thomas McNamara
This goal is started when St. Ledger goes forward to try to win a tackle against Poku, 40 yards from goal. He loses the tackle and Avila, in the picture above, is way out of position and needs to be further back in the back four. McNamara is wide, making a run to the back post, where there is plenty of space. The outside midfielder didn't drop back to defend. Team shape was compromised and it's all on the formation this time.
Verdict: Formation 100%
Goal 5: Mix Diskerud
This is really not a fault of the formation or the players. Orlando City is throwing numbers forward, trying to get the equalizer, and Kaká had just clanked a free kick off the post. It doesn't matter if you lose by one or two goals.
Verdict: 100% Based on the Situation
Orlando City's formation change was unsuccessful due to not having the correct personnel to run the formation. Changing a formation mid-season can be very difficult for a team that has been using the same basic shape all year. Most of the goals involve Eric Avila being out of position. Avila is not an outside back, although he has played there before, and he doesn't fit into a 3-4-3. The formation looks different with a Rafael Ramos in that outside position. We may see that formation again, as it is more attack minded.
There is nothing for Orlando City fans to be concerned about because I see Orlando going back to the 4-2-3-1 against Columbus. The concern for Orlando City is they are running out of opportunities to gain points. They need to take the strategy the U.S. National team does when they are qualifying. At the minimum, win your home games and get results on the road.
If Orlando City wins the rest of its home games, it gives the team 18 points, and on the road they must at least get a result here and there and earn another seven points, ending the season with 49 points. That total of 49 points has been good enough for the last spot in the Eastern Conference the last two years.
The mission is simple Saturday: protect our home stadium and get three points.