It seems that every year, a player comes to Real Salt Lake who is maybe not a perfect fit for the tactical system. We don't need to look back too far to get a good list: Nelson Gonzalez, Arturo Alvarez, Jonny Steele, and most recently, David Viana.
Since the 2010 establishment of the diamond as RSL's preferred midfield strategy — and it's something we haven't veered too distantly from — players like these have found integration at times a little tough. These are all players who, more or less, prefer to play in the wide areas — an area Jason Kreis's tactical outlay naturally doesn't lean toward.
In fact, one might go so far as to say that it doesn't incorporate it outright, but that the wide areas in attack are filled by either strikers — think Joao Plata, Olmes Garcia, or in the past, Fabian Espindola — or a central attacking midfielder moving into channels in attack.
The most recent of these sorts of players, David Viana, is a tricky winger — that's hard to deny. When he gets involved in matches, his ability with the ball at his feet is always on show. He changes the dynamic with his presence — but tactically, he presents a puzzle that is difficult to solve.
It's not all bad: Viana — as with the other players above — is disruptive. He forces Kreis and the coaching staff to contemplate other options, to branch off from original lines of thought, to take a look at things in different lights. Having a player like that in the squad is invaluable.
Now, it's worth remembering that Viana hasn't seem much time this season because he's been struck by injury, and any other assumptions about reasons for his absence this far into 2013 are perhaps overblown.
That said, he simply doesn't fit snugly into the system, and integrating him into the lineup aside from as a late sub when the chips are down is a difficult proposition. Let's go over some of the ways we could adapt to use him — but keep in mind, the onus is certainly on the player to force Kreis's hand.
The easiest way for Viana to get on the pitch regularly would be if RSL abandoned — or at least did without for a week — the diamond midfield.
Any formation with non-defensive wingers would seem to fit — an in-vogue European-style 4-2-3-1 would probably be the best fit. Imagine, if you will, two midfielders playing deep — Beckerman and Grabavoy, perhaps — and three attacking midfielders, with Gil left, Morales central, and Viana on the right.
This would give Viana the freedom to roam, get forward, and cut inside to create opportunities for Saborio up top. However, it requires a bit of defensive discipline at times for a player to succeed wide in this system, and if that's holding Viana back already, this doesn't solve enough problems. It does give us a different, wider look — and maybe that's not the worst thing in the world — but it doesn't necessarily get the best out of our selection of forwards.
It's difficult to see this happening. Viana may be talented, but the continuity and understanding built inherently through the diamond midfield is essential to the makeup of this side.
Viana as a forward
This one seems fairly straightforward, especially as the system remains the same. In this case, David Viana would shift up front. He's not really a striker, but his attacking instincts help him out. He'd essentially play as a second-striker and would be given freedom to roam.
Essentially, Viana up top seems like a less dangerous Fabian Espindola, and although we could argue the merits of that, it doesn't tick the right boxes. This is, of course, assuming that Viana doesn't have the right skill set to ply his trade up top. I could well be wrong about that.
Viana on the outside of the diamond
Jason Kreis has talked about wanting to give the diamond a more attacking bent, and there are few better ways of doing that than getting someone in there who does little but attack. In all seriousness, if David Viana can work on the defensive side of his game, he could have a bright future in the outside of the diamond.
This is something Sebastian Velasquez has excelled at in his second year at RSL — he's certainly a more attacking option than we might have deployed two years ago, but he's showed a willingness to work and defend. David Viana may need to show more of that if he's to play there.