The 2014 MLS season is almost at its midpoint and clubs are starting to show some fatal weaknesses. The most pestilent of these flaws is the lack of creative minds in the middle of the park.
A creative mastermind isn’t necessarily an attacking midfielder; he’s a player that sees things before they happen and has the presence of mind to effectively create easier chances for the center forwards.
An example of an ingenious player is Seattle Sounders’ Gonzalo Pineda. Even though he is not filling up the stat sheet this season, the 31-year-old has been incredible this year.
The box-to-box midfielder isn’t an adroit player, but his vision and technique is all he needs to lose his defenders, lift his head and pick out a teammate, simple as that. No need to take on three defenders when you can beat them with one pass, and it also helps to have Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins on the receiving end of that pass.
Right now there are four teams – Chicago Fire, Philadelphia Union, New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA ‒ struggling because there isn’t a true No.10 on their rosters.
It’s 2014, and soccer has evolved into a more physical and exhausting sport. It’s almost impossible to be very successive with flat 4-4-2 formation, because it is unreasonable to ask the two central midfielders to run the full length of the pitch for 90 minutes. This is why most coaches are using more innovative formations.
This faulty formation is the main reason why the Fire is currently ninth in the Eastern Conference. Frank Yallop has one of the best teams on paper. He has last season’s MVP, this year’s leading Rookie of the Year candidate, former MLS Cup winner and an ex-MLS All-Star. But with all these talents, Chicago has won only two games this season.
Alex is the closest thing to a playmaker that Yallop has, but the Brazilian just isn’t getting the job done. The manager has to acquire a Dillon Powers-esque player. A midfielder that loves to create from deep and has the energy to burst forward, but quickly recovers to help out defensively.
Maybe if Chicago had some creativity, the club wouldn’t have drawn eight times and Juan Luis Anangono might actually be scoring goals.
Philadelphia’s struggles can be blamed entirely on John Hackworth. It bemuses me how the coach expected to be a fluid team with three holding midfielders – Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira and Brian Carroll – in the starting lineup. If he had signed an attacking midfielder, the Union would be pouring in goals every weekend.
For a team with so much money, you’d expect the Red Bulls to have all the essential personnel and be contending for the Supporters Shield. However, Petke is very thin in the middle. He’s so short of central midfielders, he has to use a winger and a forward as his playmakers.
Eric Alexander and Peguy Luyindula have looked decent because Thierry Henry substantially drops into the midfield. The French legend has taken up the responsibility of being the primary playmaker. This game plan is impotent because the lethal scorer is drawn away from the opposition’s goal, which makes him easier to defend and that’s why he’s only scored three goals.
And also, the lack of a true playmaker makes New York a very boring team to watch. There is no cohesion in the middle and the central midfielder’s rarely make a pass that opens up the game.
Chivas caught a break with the signing of Erick Torres on loan, but the infamous club lack ideas going forward. Even though the club has Martín Rivero and Agustín Pelletieri in the middle, their ability to keep possession and create chances is dreadful. On Sunday, Chivas only managed 35 percent of the possession in the SuperClasico.
The players are simply content with building a defensive wall and absorbing pressure, which is why the club has only scored 14 goals. With an adept playmaker, Chivas will have more possession and there would be less pressure on Dan Kennedy to make this kind of saves.
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