Backe's formation experiment works in Colorado

Red Bulls abandon 4-4-2, get hard-fought draw

Dane Richards

Photo Credit: 
Marc Piscotty/Getty

Almost every Red Bulls fan had to cringe on Sunday night, when a
surprising 4-5-1 formation trotted out on the field, bringing back
shades of a 2009 team that floundered so helplessly under former coach
Juan Carlos Osorio.

But there was nothing shameful about Sunday
night’s performance, a 1-1 tie against a very tough Colorado side. The
4-5-1 formation was a tactical move to combat the Rapids’ strength in
the midfield, giving New York some defensive balance and shape against a
midfield that holds possession well and overwhelms with numbers.

just had a feeling that, for this game, we needed that extra player in
the midfield,” Red Bulls coach Hans Backe told “They have
their forward, and after him some attacking players that can really
push forward really quite well.”

Backe said that Colorado
midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy, the
creative force in the midfield, is a player to be reckoned with. As
such, he felt that the team’s 4-5-1 did an overall good job in
controlling the game, even as the team fell behind in the 14th minute.

After falling behind, Backe then pushed midfielder Dane Richards to a forward position, creating
the team’s traditional 4-4-2 system.

The added offensive
pressure paid off with a first-half goal by Juan Pablo Angel, and
the team maintained the shape for much of the second half until Colorado
began to push for the winner.

It was a different formation for
the coach, who has adamantly kept the 4-4-2 formation throughout the
season, saying that he wanted a certain system and that teams would have
adjust to New York. This was a sudden switch from last year, where the
team constantly tinkered with formations and player roles for each

Backe doesn’t envision using the 4-5-1 always to start
the game, just in certain situations on the road.

“I think maybe
only when we’re away at Los Angeles, Salt Lake and then obviously
Colorado,” Backe said. “In a way it’s to get a result against a good
team on the road.”

Kristian Dyer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.