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Formation Dreaming Part 2: 4-4-2 Diamond

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A twist on the yucky but effective classic setup

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Charleston Battery at Atlanta United FC Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to part two of alternative formation talk with Dirty South Soccer. Yesterday we talked about the completely arbitrary nature of formations in modern soccer and threw all that out the window and went on to breakdown how a 3-5-2 might work with Atlanta United. Today we continue our journey through the formation forest with a look at the 4-4-2 diamond.

Last time we posed a hypothetical situation where Jeff Larentowicz was suspended for a match thanks to yellow card accumulation and missed the game against the New England Revolution. Let’s say he’s back and after Atlanta goes back to the 4-3-3 for their next match against Orlando City they welcome the LA Galaxy to the Benz.

Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but the LA game offers an ample opportunity for the team to rotate players and get some rest. For one thing, LA is a non-conference opponent so there’s no risk they essentially steal six points form us in the standings by losing to them. For another, the following Saturday the Montreal Impact come to town in what will be a huge game with massive playoff implications.

In short, let’s get weird...

*note, I’m assuming Bloom is back from whatever mystery injury he has and Carleton will still be with the U-17s or he’d be in there no doubt.

This formation will get killed in the comments, but hear me out:

  • Everyone is resting, United can afford to gut out a draw or even drop three points to LA, they need to be ready for Montreal.
  • Bobby B was brought in for a match like this, plus every time Alessandrini touches the ball I envision him screaming “BRING BACK MY BALL BEFORE I PI$$ MYSELF“ but he might just be left wallowing on the ground after getting nutmegged lamenting “gods I was strong then.”
  • LA has scored one goal in their last four games, their attack is completely misfiring and isn’t getting much better, the backline shielded by McCann will be fine.
  • Kratz is not a creative genius but he can pick a pass and showed well against Miami FC, LA is not as good as Miami FC and at some point Tito will get behind the LA backline and get a chance on goal, something like that might be all it takes to win a game like this.
  • Are you all actually worried about who we put out against LA? They have a keeper battle between Clement Diop, Brian Rowe, and something called Jon Kempin; if a club has three viable goalkeepers it means they have zero viable goalkeepers.

Why it is good

When the team inevitably fails to keep the uptempo, quick passing needed to play this style without Miguel Almiron, Yamil Asad, and Carlos Carmona in the line up they can just flatten the thing out and play a bog standard 4-4-2. In all seriousness, the formation plays to the strengths of a team that counter attacks and Atlanta can afford to have a more defensive mindset against LA. When the team forces turnovers, they can rely on Vazquez to hold up play while support comes from the wingers and Tito. Plus, inevitably when Jermaine Jones gets a red card United will have plenty of space to roam through the Galaxy midfield.

Why it is bad

It’s a difficult formation to get right as our hapless colleagues in Orlando have shown all season. Without quickly moving the ball through central midfield the attacking options are limited and if the wingers are starved for service in dangerous positions, they will end up resorting to crosses to the forwards who will be guarded by center backs knowing that the only threat is a header from Vazquez or a rebound falling to Tito.

In defense, Bloom and Mears will have to cover a lot of ground and McCann will have to be ready to cover LA’s midfielders on the counter. That is well within their abilities as players but it would take just one breakaway and Gyasi Zardes getting a lucky touch to ruin Atlanta’s day.

Get the conversation going in the comments, who would you want to see in a 4-4-2? Are there other options for the lineup? What if LA plays Jack McInerney against United?