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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Basic MLS Tactics and a European Comparison by Dan Leo

Basic MLS Tactics and a European Comparison
by Dan Leo for World Football Commentaries.

A good question was posed to me about MLS tactics.

"If a defender presses a forward who receives the ball with his back to the goal, the proper play is the immediate backpass, then move without the ball to space?"

This explains the MLS in its entirety.

When a defender presses anyone - with a rare exception of a wing in the attacking third and I have seen exception to that too, the rule in MLS is to pass the ball back.

The best in not doing that are the Chicago Fire, RBNY, and the Kansas City Wizards.

The LA Galaxy and the Colorado Rapids are the worst.

Really, the principle of what to do is fairly simple:

A) If there's a space in front of you, a forward and a midfielder takes it at full speed.

B) If there's one defender, a forward or a midfielder takes him off the dribble in the forward direction, unless there's an open teammate in a further forward position.

C) If double teamed, a forward/mid holds the ball until a teammate gets open. A backward pass is the last option.

D) If one is open for a shot from 25 yards in, he takes it.

E) Any players "linked" to the ball holder - this depends on a formation.

For example, let's examine AC Milan's 4-5-1 formation. A right sided defensive midfielder, Ivan "Rino" Gattuso, is linked to a fellow defensive midfielder, Max Ambrosini on the left, right fullback Cafu'/Max Oddo on the right, the playmaker Andrea Pirlo ahead of him, with the central defenders behind him. All 4 to 5 players must be open or seeking to be open at any moment Gattuso is on the ball. His first option is Pirlo, his second is the right fullback, his third is Ambrosini, his fourth is to backpass to its own central defender, who makes himself available, at the very worst, in a lateral position. The preferred distance between the player with the ball and his nearest "link" is ~ 15 meters/50 feet.

If/when Pirlo gets the ball, his options are first Kaka' and Clarence Seedorf in front, or Oddo/Cafu on the right, Marek Jankulovsky on the left, Gattuso and Ambrosini are the last behind him. Because Pirlo is rarely double teamed in the middle of the park, he will not give up the ball when marked by a single defender or a midfielder. He'll simply shield the ball until his first 3 options are open. If he is double-teamed closer to the goal and his immediate area gets a lot of traffic, he will try to switch the point of attack.

And that's basically the difference between the MLS and European tactics.

About the Author

Dan Leo
is a freelance writer based in Miami, Florida.

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