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.
“I just had a feeling that, for this game, we needed that extra player in the midfield,” Red Bulls coach Hans Backe told MLSSoccer.com. “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 match.
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 MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.