United Preview | Into the Concrete Cavern

Lots of questions heading into Sunday's tilt with Los Toros Rojos, and not just on our side of the ball. To wit...
  • The Bulls are coming off a mid-week loss, but the bigger impact may not be the loss, it may be that they played a man down for 88 minutes. Tired legs + plastic laid over concrete = not so good?
  • Tommy will have some interesting choices to make after some of the scrubs and those returning from injury looked good against the Starcows in the Open Cup.
  • With Gomez out, do we need to stay in the 3-5-2? If we do, who gets his role in the middle: Fred, Olsen, Moreno, Quaranta, Barklage?
  • Is Avery John ready to pick up any minutes? Because in a three-man back line, I'm not sure I like either Jakovic or Janicki in a wide role. That said, they're both playing pretty well at the moment, so I wouldn't mind seeing a 4-back lineup. Heck, I'd rather see the 4-man back line anyway, particularly against a team with speed on the flanks, strong aerial targets, and a playing surface that will run extremely fast and doesn't favor possession.
  • Does Olsen get on the field considering the state of his ankles and the state of the concrete pitch?
Well, that gives us some things to think about. Now, how does Tommy line the boys up? As I said above, the cruddy field up there doesn't favor possession. It plays fast and bouncy, and for that reason, it's a recipe for disaster if we go for three backs, none of whom is blessed with terrific speed. It's not like we're going to be able to play fancy stuff with lots of slick touches anyway.

Better instead to go more direct. Of course, Tommy being wedded to the 3-5-2 probably means we'll line up that way by default. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have options. Starting with Jakovic and Janicki on the back line and Wallace on the left means that we can pull Wallace back and go 4-4-2 at a moment's notice (assuming, of course, that Tommy has raised the tactical possibilities beforehand). Also, having guys at back who are strong in the air and able to play the physical game is a necessity against Angel and Kandji. Incidentally, if Angel and Kandji play narrow, allowing Richards and whoever's on the left to push into wide attacking positions, we're going to be mighty vulnerable in a 3-man back line unless we have somebody (McTavish?) dropping into the middle of defense for extra cover.

The next topic for debate is going to be the relative merits of preserving Saint Benny's ankles and the fact that he generally hurts the Bulls. Also, we'll miss his competitive fire if he sits out. So which way does Tommy play it? I'm going to say he holds Benny out and subs him in if the team is flat. So who goes in place of Benny? Jacobson is tempting, but technical. I think we go with experience and defensive grit in McTavish, particularly in a 3-5-2.

And what about the attacking midfield spot left vacant by Gomez? On any other field, I'd be tempted to say Fred. But I don't think a short passing game will be productive. That's a knock against Moreno filling in as well. That leaves Quaranta as a strong possibility, though I wonder if we might benefit more from Barklage's energy in that position, particularly if Olsen doesn't start as part of the central midfield trio.

Up top, I think we miss N'Silu. This would be an ideal spot to stick him in there to get his noggin on the bouncing ball. Emilio probably plays by default in hopes that he'll get one of two opportunistic chances. Tommy will probably start Moreno as well, though I think that would be a mistake not only because the field doesn't favor his old legs or his possession play, but because we'll want speed and energy up top.

So, how would I line them up? Well, how about one lineup constrained by the damn├ęd 3-5-2, and another in the ideal world of my imagination where we can go with four at the back?

3-5-2 (Danger!Danger!) 4-4-2 (Pretty please?)

----Pontius---Emilio-- --------Emilio-------
-------Barklage------- --Quaranta-----------
Wallace-----------Fred Fred----------Pontius
----Simms--McTavish--- ---Simms--Jacobson---
-Namoff-------Jakovic- Wallace--------Namoff
-------Janicki-------- ---Janicki--Jakovic--
-------Crayton-------- -------Crayton-------

If John is fit and has an understanding with the other backs and keepers, this would be the type of game where his strength would be an asset in matching up with NY's forwards, so he might be a possibility as well, but I don't see him being ready yet. What do you think? How would you line up? What threats are you looking to counter, and where do you think the Bulls can be exploited?


  1. If Benny plays a minute I'll scream for Soehn to be fired.

    Not that he won't give me a reason even if he doesn't play Benny.

  2. Does 50 minutes mean 50 times the screaming? Wonder if Saint Benny's ankles heal up in time for Dallas next weekend?