On Saturday, we were treated to our first instance of Brooks Lennon playing at central striker for Real Salt Lake.
That was interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which is because it meant that Yura Movsisyan remained on the bench despite an injury to Luis Silva that kept him out of the lineup. We’ve talked about the implications for Movsisyan — this only strengthens those discussions we had — so let’s move on from that.
Instead, I’d like to take a look at some of the qualities Lennon showed at forward and how that affected the team.
Let’s go straight to a passing chart, because this will tell you a lot. Here’s Lennon in the win against Seattle.
See that? That’s the look of a winger playing both sides, not a forward in the vein of Luis Silva — who, himself, isn’t a forward at all, or if he is, he’s certainly not your average one. We’ll take a look at his chart momentarily from another match, but it’s typically more centrally distributed, and you’re more likely to see clumps of passes around the top of the box.
There’s not intended to be any prescriptive analysis of that fact here — it’s just an observation, and clearly, everything turned out well enough, didn’t it?
Here’s a fairly typical chalkboard for Luis Silva.
Again, nothing prescriptive meant here in this.
Lennon: A wide forward
In a way, Lennon’s role wasn’t too much different than when he plays out wide. He tried to provide an attacking option from wide positions, mainly by hanging off the shoulder of defenders and making runs that draw defenders away from central players.
It’s interesting, though, that Lennon would do this when ostensibly being put in the role of a center forward. That fact leaves one wondering if he was put there as a decoy. After all, it’s the inverted movement of players like Joao Plata and Jefferson Savarino that has defined our resurgence in the last few months, and throwing another wide attacker into the mix can help draw players out of position.
Let’s take a look at Lennon’s positioning on the two goals to get a better sense of how he’s impact things.
Here’s Lennon’s run on the way to RSL’s first goal.
See that run from our no. 27? This isn’t just a wide player making this run. He’s spaced himself purposefully from Seattle’s Roman Torres, leaving just enough space to keep him involved but still beyond arm’s reach. That isn’t what creates the goal, but it does help ensure the appropriate space remains open for a reasonable opportunity. Of course, that goal took its own set of skill. Truly an amazing one, isn’t it?
On to the next goal, shall we?
Obviously, Lennon’s run here has a tremendous impact. If it’s just Luke Mulholland making a run, there’s a good chance that Roman Torres gets in front of him or is able to otherwise put him off the play. But because Lennon is making this run, Torres is distracted. That pays off when Mulholland sends home a game-clinching goal.
What we see from Lennon here is that he’s starting his runs from wide positions and moving inside. That’s the sort of run that’s truly his bread and butter, and you can see that in every match he plays.
That’s what’s really interesting to me — Lennon was playing like he’s out wide, and in doing so, he’s betraying the expectations Seattle had of how he’d operate as a center forward. They might well have assumed he’d play like Luis Silva had been, with his back to goal and his play central.
Yura Movsisyan, on the other hand, might have played like Silva in style. He’s worked to adapt his game, and it’s terribly hard to say how that particular project went. Lennon, though, offered a different dimension to our play at the expense of another, and in doing so, he helped lift RSL to an absolutely vital victory.