Shift to 4-2-1-3 provides good, bad moments, but flexibility encouraging

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Kreis's experimentation with formation continued in earnest last night, and with a 1-0 victory the result, there are certainly some positives to be gleaned from the match. As a one-off formation, there were both positives and negatives to take from the rolling out of a 4-2-1-3, with Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy and Javier Morales in the midfield.

Good: Morales, Grabavoy, and Beckerman have been involved in a great many matches in the last few weeks, and they all played in the set of three matches in eight days. It's not intuitive from an unadulterated look at a squad chart, but the three-forward approach — which perhaps was less about three forwards and more about two wingers — mitigated the need for the midfielders to take up wide positions. As such, they were making fewer long, sprinting runs to either flank.

Bad: Getting those three moving into wide positions is part of our constitutional makeup at this point. We see the evidence week-in, week-out — when Kyle Beckerman gets into a wide position in the attacking third, play become so radically stretched that scoring a goal isn't the most difficult of propositions. When Morales is in wide positions, we look dangerous too — and both players taking up different spots opens up gobs of space for Ned Grabavoy.

Good: We got Olmes Garcia and Joao Plata on to the pitch, and we had a natural width about us as a result. We typically lack that natural width, so seeing that — and having both of those players available to track back and help out in defense — was interesting indeed. Natural defensive width is something we sometimes really miss.

Bad: I'm not sure it worked, having those two tracking back. We were generally less effective in transition, and while we defended nobly, I don't know that we defended better than we normally would with the diamond. We typically would have a wide midfielder tracking runs alongside the full back, so in that sense, it allowed us a greater opportunity to keep play in wide areas — there were fewer spaces centrally to exploit — and it gave us a less lopsided defensive stance.

Good: We were able to provide natural attacking width — as Tony points out — and that could have provided more dangerous moments. Interestingly, I'd wager that the formation was essentially the right half of our typical diamond made symmetrical — typically, Robbie Findley is not in a totally different spot than where Garcia was; the big difference was having Joao Plata higher than a left-sided midfielder would be.

Bad: We didn't capitalize on that. We needed those players to make more effective runs on the flank — they were a bit too static. I'll let Jason Kreis do the talking: "The other thing that I think if we're going to continue forward looking at that we've got to get those players moving more, I don't like them standing on their outside backs and getting themselves marked."

Finally, good: We need flexibility moving forward. Too many times in the past we shoehorned players into a system they weren't comfortable with — see Jean Alexandre as a forward, who did some good things but surely wasn't a forward. Playing to the strengths of our squad is incredibly important, and while I doubt Jason Kreis didn't accept that in the past, seeing him truly embrace that is encouraging.

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