Orlando City has always played primarily a 4-2-3-1 formation, which provides support in the midfield with an opportunity to attack in different ways. Today, we'll look at a simple breakdown on how the formation works and what we can look forward to in 2016.
Orlando City does well to defend with numbers behind the ball. The 4-2-3-1 formation provides support in the central area of the field. The most dangerous way to break down any team is right up the middle of the field. The key for the center forward is keeping the play to one side of the field. The worst thing he can do is allow the switch because the whole team behind him has to shift to the other side of the field.
The midfield is going to attempt to push the play to the outside, allowing for a trap on the sideline with the outside back. If the team is able to come to the middle, they are met by the central midfielders. The formation, while in defense, will end up looking like a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-5-1 if the central attacking mid tracks back. Top draft pick Richie Laryea's speed could allow for better positioning in the defensive shape. Kaká doesn't get back and defend in a timely fashion. Laryea or a defensive midfielder could come on with Orlando up late in a game to provide defensive cover.
The back four defenders are crucial to the defensive formation. The back four has to move as a team and it is why soccer is about team defending. The back four needs to move as one. The defense should be moving as if they are connected by a rope that is 10-15 yards long. The goal is to minimize space in dangerous areas. For Orlando City, the outside backs always push the attacker inside. This is to eliminate dangerous crosses and play to the strengths of our center backs and their tackling ability. Rafael Ramos is excellent at not getting beat down the line and he pushes the ball always toward the center back, who comes forward and takes the ball away.
City's outside backs need pace. Ramos and Luke Boden are able to cover quick switches and fit the formation. Aurelien Collin, Seb Hines, and David Mateos do well at reading the opposing team's attack and help organize the defense and put everything on the line to keep the ball out of the net. The goalkeeper needs to be the organizer. Whether it will be Earl Edwards Jr. or Joe Bendik, the starter will need to organize the defense.
Attacking as a 4-3-3
When Orlando attacks, the players are able to do so in numerous ways and it is always based on making sure the player with the ball has multiple options. The game goes through the center midfielder. Let's start with the most exciting and least respected run that happens all the time for Orlando City -- the outside back run. The ball usually starts on the opposite side of the field. Orlando always has multiple options and the Lions have the ability to play within the central midfield with combination play or an overlapping run made by the outside back. The outside back then serves balls into the penalty area, where the striker and other midfielders crash into the box. This makes the formation look more like a 4-3-3 than a 4-2-3-1.
The central midfielder is the playmaker and most of the game is played through him. Kaká is the player who normally plays this role and is influential in the Orlando City attack. The problem occurs when Orlando has to play from behind and be more direct. The new draft picks, Richie Laryea and Hadji Barry, could make the opening day roster, as they provide something that was missing last year -- namely, speed. Laryea enters the game with the idea of balls being played over the top and behind the defense. Laryea will be able to get behind tired defenders with his speed and create more dangerous situations.
Larin will need a sub to come in and be a change of pace. Pedro Ribeiro is not the option as his lack of pace is an issue. Bryan Rochez progressed well towards the end of the season but Barry could be given the opportunity. Both new players seem to be destined to playing for Orlando City B, but don't be surprised if Laryea makes the opening day roster. Building on-field chemistry with good friend Larin could give him the edge.
Orlando City has a lot to look forward to in 2016. The formation is not going to change with Adrian Heath at the helm, as the 4-2-3-1 is a versatile formation that can provide defensive cover and multiple attacking options.