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Breaking Down Orlando City’s Switch to the 4-4-2 Diamond Formation

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How did Orlando City’s formation change look on Sunday? There were speed bumps, but the debut of Jason Kreis’ favorite alignment went well overall.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Orlando City SC Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time this season, Orlando City changed up its tactics. Head Coach Jason Kreis decided to go with a formation that he’s been tied to ever since his days at Real Salt Lake, the 4-4-2 diamond.

Rather than the flat 4-4-2 that Orlando has implemented through the first three games, the diamond provides more attacking up top by moving a midfielder closer to the forwards. Then there are two central midfielders, rather than wingers, that are there to help create tighter passing lanes through the midfield and into the attack. The anchor of the diamond, the midfielder closest to the defense, is there to provide defensive cover for the back four and start those passing combinations from the back after winning the ball.

Now, this was the first time this season Orlando City has gone to the diamond formation, and center back Jonathan Spector spoke best about how the team implemented the new tactics.

“We did go to a diamond and the idea was to have an extra man in midfield to keep the ball a bit better,” Spector said after the 1-0 win. “We did make some good passing combinations during the game, but not consistently enough. So the idea was to be able to do that, but it didn’t quite pan out the way we would have hoped. I think having someone like Scott Sutter at right back, who is someone who likes to get forward, can provide that width for us. I think it can be a good formation for us, but perhaps we need a bit more time to work on it, but that’s something I’ll let Jason (Kreis) figure out.”

Looking back at the game, the passing combinations that the diamond is meant to create were there, but only in spurts. The New York Red Bulls’ high pressing forced the Lions to move the ball quicker than they were comfortable with and often forced Orlando into some bad giveaways.

After the game, Kreis talked about the switch to the diamond and the goal of dictating the pace of the game.

“I think we suffered a little bit in the first half just because that was the first time we’ve done it,” Kreis said. “But I think it’s also that a coach wants to play a couple of different ways. He’d like to not walk into every match and have the opponent know exactly what they’re going to be doing.”

There’s still plenty to work on with the formation, but if the team does decide to go down the route of playing the diamond more often, getting into training and understanding the runs of players will help with passing through the midfield. Although it wasn’t the best execution, Sunday was a good starting point for Orlando and the 4-4-2 diamond.