It has been well documented by ourselves and others that Orlando City is currently stuck in a slump during its inaugural season in MLS. Many things may be to blame (an atrocious injury record, international call-ups, abrupt team departures, and a grueling mid-season schedule), but we aren't the only team that has had to cope with those problems, and we certainly won't be the last. However, the one problem that all of these issues have culminated in, is a complete loss of width in our tactical formation.
The 4-2-3-1 system that is favored by Head Coach Adrian Heath is a formation that requires width and pace on the wings to make it work. That is because if you are unable to drag the center backs out wide to provide coverage on the wings, while playing a lone center forward, then you are leaving the lone man up front well contained by two markers and leading to the scoring drought that we have found ourselves in.
Our No. 10 play-maker and talisman, Kaká, has also fallen victim to the same issue in recent weeks. Because an opposing team does not have to worry about playing against a team with dangerous wingers, or any wide attacking threat, they are able to leave two markers on Kaká at all times. This has led to critiques of him being ineffective and not influencing the play in the manner that we have become accustomed to.
However, Kaká is not the problem. He is still a superstar. The problem is that the culmination of issues affecting this team has made his role very difficult.
Let me put home my point a little. Think of all of the great teams over the years and the great players that have existed. The Manchester United of the '90s with Ryan Giggs and David Beckham, the Real Madrid of recent seasons with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo. They may all be great players in their own right, but the dimension and incredible width that they bring to their team is a large part of what makes the club successful.
Our great moments and performances of this season have been when our wide players have been on the field. We are all anticipating and salivating at the upcoming day when Rafael Ramos, Carlos Rivas and Brek Shea can once again take the field, providing the width that is so desperately needed to relieve the pressure for the spine of this team of Kaká, Cerén, Higuita and Collin, once again bringing the success that this team so desperately wants and the supporters need.
To those who question the current system, let's remember that Heath's system led to the most successful first 100 games in American soccer history and culminated in two USL championships and three regular season titles, and ultimately our promotion to Major League Soccer. The only problem we have run into this year is that we no longer have the squad depth and personnel to be able to handle it due to MLS's rules regarding salary cap and international spots.
It was widely believed that during the transfer window the Orlando City front office might have gone out and acquired some talent on the wings to adjust these problems, however alas that was not to be. The acquisitions of defensive midfielder Servando Carrasco, center back David Mateos and attacking mid Adrian Winter didn't add anything except cover to a team stretched thin.
Only the signing of Corey Ashe has provided any team width this summer (which was highlighted in his and Luke Boden's partnership in the 5-2 demolition of Columbus Crew SC) and really proves the point that our team needs width to get the W.
With the window now firmly closed and only out-of-contract players available, don't expect any change in our fortunes just yet. Until we see the return of some wide, offensive-minded players, or a drastic change in formation, our current slump will continue. So just sit tight, remember the good times, and think about what width can bring to a team.