TUKWILA, Wash. — The new 4-4-2 diamond formation that the Sounders have rolled out this preseason seems to be a hit with coaches and staff, and may give Seattle more opportunities to overwhelm opposing back lines. With two forwards in the mix, the shift has caused problems for opposing defenses in preseason matches.
As a defensive midfielder, Cristian Roldan is perhaps affected more than any other player by the shift from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 diamond. The change in the midfield puts more players forward, but makes the defensive end of the diamond subject to all of the scrutiny, especially in a counterattacking situation. Still, Roldan likes the more aggressive approach.
“I think it’s a little bit more attack-minded,” Roldan said Monday. “That’s definitely a positive thing. [When] we’re playing that formation, we have players that can play at different positions and that’s the beauty of our team. I don’t know if it’s a backup or it’s our first formation, but it’s a good habit to have and hopefully we can continue to improve it and structurally be together as a team defensively and offensively.”
Roldan can be excused for his uncertainty around whether the formation will be a primary or backup option, since Brian Schmetzer isn’t sure yet, either.
“We like the formation because it puts two forwards on the field at the same time,” Schmetzer said. “[Last year] we had Jordan [Morris] on the left sometimes when we had Will [Bruin] up top or [Clint] Dempsey. Getting them both in their natural positions, you’ve got Dempsey who can play that role with Jordan or with Bruin.
“It’s going to take us some time to really perfect it, but I like it. It’s not just a formation that we start with some games; maybe we’re in our 4-2-3-1 and maybe we’re chasing a goal and we want to bring an extra forward on. We bring an extra forward on and the guys still know how to play.”
If Roldan faces the greatest increase in pressure from the shift, Morris will receive the most benefit. The 23-year-old forward is coming off an injury-riddled sophomore season that saw him play over 1,000 fewer minutes than his rookie year, and saw his goal production slashed from 12 to three while he struggled with hamstring problems.
Morris appreciates the extra support the new system provides.
“I think playing with another forward is beneficial for me. It gives you a guy to work off of and combine with. One guy can check in and the other guy can make a run in behind. It’s a little easier for [defenses] when there’s just one forward. This is a little bit more of a direct game, maybe, which could help us at the end of games. We have the players to play it. I think it would be good for us.”
Whether the Sounders roll out the formation at the opening whistle or when pressing for a late goal, a team that can comfortably play more than one system will cause problems for defenses around the league.