What will the starting XI look like in Arizona in two weeks time?
With the Desert Diamond Cup less than two weeks away and representing the Revs first true test against MLS competition, it's time to introduce a feature I'll be running with all season long: The Cyber Manager (name pending, I'm picky). Think of it as along the lines of those old Monday Morning Quarterback themes in football: each week I'll outline what I would do personally with the club, from lineups to subs and tactics. It's always good to have second (and sometimes third and fourth) opinions, and there's never a shortage of questionable decisions in the beautiful game. Let's kick it off and take a look at where the Revs stand right now, after the jump!
It's unquestionably an inexact science this early in the season to put players into positions and roles, but given what the Revolution have in place and SIGNED right now in camp (meaning, I'm not counting on Moreno) there's enough here to at least get me started.
It's essentially a 4-5-1 with an attacking mid playing behind the striker. There's so much depth at midfield that it's difficult to not use it to our advantage. With the lack of depth and quality at striker, playing one striker up top with a little help behind seemed logical. As the season progresses and we see more of the newcomers, I'll be open to changing it up.
DEFENDERS (L-R) : Barnes-Soares-Lozano-Alston.
I'm not ready to give the LB reigns to rookie Generation Adidas player Tyler Polak just yet. Penciling in a rookie on opening day is daunting, and while he gets his feet underneath him in professional soccer I'll give the job to Barnes, who performed well enough once he adjusted to the move from CB. It appears Lozano and Soares have gotten to know each other quite quickly, and if the reports are to believed about the communication not being a problem, I see this as a good partnership in the center of the defense. Kevin Alston remains the stalwart at RB until someone outplays him, and that doesn't seem likely for quite some time.
MIDFIELDERS (L-R): Nyassi-Joseph-Feilhaber-Mansally.
Again, for now, this is how I'd like to play it. Speed on the outside, and our two best midfielders (and players in general) in the middle of the park controlling the game. Service is the first concern of mine, as neither of the two wide midfielders showed much of it last season, but in this system, I'd like to see more in-cutting and breaking down through the middle out of these two. Nobody else really stands out enough in the midfield to move these players out. I thought of putting Feilhaber out wide and playing Simms in the middle in place of Nyassi, but at least at the start, I'd like to take a more aggressive, offensive approach. I think Simms will see his share of minutes, especially if New England is playing with a lead late.
Rookie midfielder Kelyn Rowe will actually slot in behind Saër Sène in this formation, giving the Frenchman someone quick and smart to play off of up top. It's almost as if the new striker is winning the job by default, as there is literally no one that I could put in his place in good conscience. Cardenas, Schilawski, Fagundez, Kinne all have something to prove to me early in this season to garner more playing time. Each striker has something they need to address or show before they can crack the XI: Cardenas and Fagundez are both undersized, and need to prove that they can be effective in spite of that. Schilawski has the tendency to disappear in matches and will go long stretches without scoring. Kinne, I feel, just needs a little more time and opportunity to blossom, both luxuries he was not given under Steve Nicol.
The obvious omission is Diego Fagundez. This won't last long I don't think. I know he's the golden child of Foxboro these days and viewed by some as a savior, but I'm just not ready to count on a 17 year old undersized forward week in and week out over a grueling season schedule. However, we all know how things change with injuries, suspensions and such, and Fagundez will be the first person in mind. Think of him as the 19th man. Schilawski has to really show me something also. I didn't think there was a need to put two out and out forwards on the bench given that any one of Nyassi, Mansally, Rowe, Feilhaber and even Joseph could make the move up top in a switch. Polak and Tierney will mostly see work as defenders (Tierney could serve as a left mid in a pinch also), while SImms and McCarthy will help fill more defensive minded midfield roles. Schilawski and Cardenas will serve as the forward subs for now, given that I've seen far too much of Zak Boggs in the midfield, and would only insert him in the bench for offensive purposes.
Again, this is only going off of what we have right now in camp and signed. I didn't include trialists like Purdie and Brettschneider as it is unclear whether or not they will even make the team to begin with. As time goes by and certain players and storylines play themselves out (Moreno, etc.) I'm sure this will change almost weekly according to form, fitness, and production.
SUBS AND TACTICS: For me, the first move off the bench would be to bolster the attack if needed. So, depending on the flow, I'd either sub off Nyassi or Mansally for a forward, most likely Cardenas, bringing in more pace to the match and switching to a 4-4-2 with Rowe moving out wide and leaving Feilhaber in the middle to create opportunities for the two strikers up top.
Defensively, the moves would be relatively simple: If Barnes needed the sub, it'd be a straight swap with Polak, or if one of the CB's needed to be subbed, Barnes would slide to CB and Polak to LB.
In the midfield, it's hard to see much change, but with a lead, I'd switch out Rowe for Simms, and have the striker play alone up top in a true 4-5-1 with Joseph and Simms playing the two defensive mid spots.
OVERVIEW: So that's the first installment of Cyber Manager. It's tough to come up with tactics and lineups so early into the year without seeing too much of the team in live action. However, it's definitely a starting point going into the first preseason tournament of the year. The philosophy is pretty evident: Speed, creativity, and aggressive flowing play with solid, veteran presence in the middle of the field to generate flow. We'll see how the Revs line up in two weeks out west, and will certainly have more to talk about once they've taken the pitch.