HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 13: A general view of the MLS, Fussball Herren, USA march ball on the field during the first half of the Major League Soccer game between the New York Red Bulls and Minnesota United on March 13, 2022 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire SOCCER: MAR 13 MLS - Minnesota United at New York Red Bulls Icon220332609

Tactical Analysis: Finding space in a defence

Jesse Marsch’s side hosted Chicago Fire in Red Bull Arena. The home team try to recover their recent loss to Guadalajara. On the other hand, Veljko Paunovic’s man after their first win over Columbus Crew in this year, they lost against LA Galaxy. So both sides arrived in this game with big expectations. However, only Fire could be happy after the 90 minutes.

Guests issue at build-up.

NY Red Bull started with strong man-oriented pressing. They could control the middle of the pitch with a high positioning of their players and forced the opponent to the wings. In possession, Fire formed 3-4-3/3-4-2-1 shape. The three side-backs positioned alongside the penalty box. When they started circulating the ball Philips pass with a low-intensity, but Kaku marked McCarty tightly and the dropped striker, Nikolic also marked by Adams. Due to the home side covering ability, Fire had to turn to the wing backs. During the build-up, they were in a deep position to help this phase. Usually, in these situations, the opponent’s ball-near winger moved to the flanks to pay attention to the wing backs. In the example below Ellis had the ball and Royer tried to stop him. And also cover shadowing the middle area.

The side-back pass to the wingback was a common pattern in this match, therefore the opponent could anticipate this pass and Royer or Valot could start their pressing movement early thus made much more trouble for Fire in their build-ups.

Thus it was hard to for the guests to reach the opponent’s penalty box or even the other half of the field. They mostly use long pass towards the forwards, but they could threaten only occasionally. Because of the fact that some balls were lack of precision or the forwards run offside.

It could be a good solution if they use the dropping forwards for layoffs or other combinations.

Because it was a frequently seen situation when the wing backs had the ball in the flanks, in a quite isolated situation. However, mostly they stopped at the halfway line due to the defending team big effort to not allowing the ball-carrier to progress. As you can see below they use tight markers to made impossible for the forwards to receive the pass. Lawrence marked Collier, Parker stuck to Nikolic and the ball near centre midfielder also helped to cover that area.

Moreover, it would be a solution for progress if the Fire’s side-backs dribbling further up the field. Due to Philips low intense press, it would allow Schweinsteiger to move up or use the marked team-mates for combinations. It could lead a much preferable situation for the guests. But they did use these methods to progress, so the build-up was a big issue for them.

Finding space in a defence

Every defence, every formation has a weak point. A space that could be averted by the attacking team and hard to access or cover for the defending team. In the Fire’s formations which was 3-4-3/3-4-2-1 these spaces were either side of the front line. Also can find these pockets behind the midfield line, next to the side-backs. Therefore Ellis and Vincent’s transition was highly important. They had to drop back to defend the wings.

Also noticeable that Fire formed a narrow shape to cover the middle area and limiting the space. Therefore they had to shift to cover the wings

As you can see besides the markers, Nikolic and Ellis used cover shadow to prevent any pass behind them. In this situation, Nikolic made a diagonal run to shift to the ball-side. If the front 3 did not cover properly the middle area there was an open passing lane which can be used for dangerous passes. Like this.

In this situation, the Red Bull player had the ball in a highly important space and it followed a dropping movement from Phillips. He dropped to layoff, but the home side struggled to use these layoffs effectively.

So, if the guests covering properly the middle there was still room for attacks. First of all, they could use the wings as you see in this example.

However, this situation had much more potential. Nikolic and the other two positions encourage the Red bull centre-backs to dribbler. Dribbling can attract the opponents. The defending team had to use pressure on the dribbler to prevent to get too further, thus the markers had to leave the marked players to press which lead the build-up in much better position.

In other occasions, it was a good movement from Kaku to move out from the cover shadow to the unoccupied half space to get the ball. Providing vertical pass option in this situation is very important if they are to penetrate the flanks.

Manipulate the opponent to open passing lane

Probably the most impressive tool that the home side had was to drag out of their markers from their position to open passing lanes or vacating space. It is a common and effective to use this against man-oriented defences. Due to the fact that it can create a decision-making crisis. The defender has to choose to stay in position and let free the previously marked player or follow him and risk to dragged too far out of position.

So, in the situation above, Adams marked Kaku and the Red Bull player moved into a more central position and drag out of his marker, so opening a passing lane to Valot. Then he could pass to Royer which led to a dangerous attack. These kind of attacking schemes were rare, but a superb way to find a way to the opponent’s goal.

In the end, the Fire could win this game with not too vary attacking plan, but the New York Red Bull showed some elements which could win the game for them. However, they need to improve and use these kinds of elements much more effectively.