Frustrated is an Understatement
This article is going to be formatted in a slightly different way than normal. Because of the two matches so close together and being in the middle of Finals Week at The University of Alabama, I want to make this a “Week of Legion” to talk about some trends we’re seeing, good or bad.
We have several goods, but a lot of bad. While there are some positive trends, I have a lot of thoughts on things that are just not going well. The Miami match should have been a win, no question. The Pittsburgh match? Well, it’s not the most infuriating loss of the season…
Another match, a new system. While Legion have been starting in the 4-2-3-1, every single match has been different with how it plays in-match. That’s until we got to Pittsburgh and we changed everything. Spoiler: It didn’t work.
The Miami FC
In this match, we started in a 4-2-3-1, and in-match it was very similar. When we played against the Battery, we saw this formation take the role of a 3 man back line with Mikey Lopez playing as a pseudo-center back. In this match, we saw Ryan James and Jonny Dean sit a little farther back, allowing Mikey to get a little bit more into the attack.
As you can see, the attacking midfield was VERY narrow, which has been very common these last few matches, which has been very successful. While most of our attacks do come from the wide areas, that has mostly been coming from Jonny Dean and Ryan James/Mikey Lopez.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
So this is a little bit misleading as for a lot of the match, Jonny Dean was playing more as a Defensive Midfielder for a lot of this match, strangely enough. He was insanely narrow and Alex Crognale was playing very wide, but I believe this is a closer representation of what the team wanted to do.
Okay, so you know all those things we were doing well? Playing narrow, allowing Prosper and Marlon to get as far forward as they want? Letting Anderson to play that true box-to-box midfielder role? Letting Jonny and Mikey give us width and not forcing our midfielders to create that width?
Yeah, screw that. We’re scratching it. This is supposed to be our “power” line up. Enzo Martinez and Juan Agudelo being our striking partnership? That’s supposed to be great! Well, it’s not. Want to make it better? We need a Bruno Lapa in the Starting XI. We need to keep that narrow shape. We decided to play wide in the midfield and it didn’t allow Jonny or Mikey into the attacking areas without it becoming cramped.
Believe it or not, there’s some good. The good here? Matt Van Oekel. To start the season, it looked like The Donut King had regressed to the mean and fell off of his career best season, but it looks like he is going to go gangbusters as spring turns into summer. His Pittsburgh match was incredible. We’re seeing this defense getting more confidence, but it’s not sunshine and rainbows…
In The Miami FC match, we saw so much good on the offense besides the finishing. Some unfortunate deflections and a worldie of a save kept Legion off of the scoreboard, but I think we can all agree that the counterattack based attack was incredible to watch. Legion showed a new wrinkle in the attack by going counterattacking and calling out The Miami FC backline. By the end of the match, the entire Miami team was collapsed onto the Protective Stadium floor.
By the end, Miami had spent everything that they could and we’re lucky to come away with a point.
The last bit of good is that of Jonny Dean and Anderson Asiedu vs Miami. If you go back and watch that match, I genuinely believe that was the best match I have ever seen either play in the Black and Gold. Purely incredible and both deserved goals and/or assists from this match.
If I just wrote “Legion vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds”, would that be enough? No? Okay. So, the defense was leaky. Why? For some reason we kept playing with super wide center backs, which made our backline as efficient as a thin slice of Swiss Cheese. A wide backline can work, but against Pittsburgh? Absolutely not. Not. At. All.
Why in the world would we change what has been working? Seriously? Why? Well, to get Juan Agudelo into the line up. Which is fair, as he might be the biggest signing in Legion’s short history. Most influential? Not yet, but biggest. I wish I could understand why we would move away from what worked. If we wanted to get Juan into the line up, then drop Enzo back into Bruno Lapa’s role and play the 4-2-3-1. Plug and go. It just makes absolutely zero sense.
Alright, here’s my Juan Agudelo rant. Before I start, I want to make this clear: I have heard nothing but good things about Juan Agudelo as a teammate and person. This is not an attack on his character.
5 matches. 239 minutes played. Only 5 shots taken in USL play. 4 of them on target. That’s an average 1 shot taken per match. .8 shots on target per match. Does that sound bad? How about this, between The Miami FC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC match, he has taken ZERO (0) shots. None. Zero. When he does not get the perfect service in, his body language has been awful. Again, I HAVE HEARD NOTHING BUT GOOD THINGS ABOUT HIM AS A HUMAN OR A TEAMMATE, but I can only report what I’ve seen.
After having opportunities to shoot, put the team on his back, have that “…#9 mentality that those guys in MLS have where they shoot from everywhere…” he reacts like this when he does not get the perfect service into the box:
I want to make this clear as well. I don’t mind cursing. I don’t care when professional athletes cuss. I don’t. I don’t care when professional athletes get angry or frustrated. They’re humans too. I do care when a player shows up his teammate, punches the net, screams after not getting a perfect ball into the box after not taking a single shot the entire match.
Moving on to Pittsburgh, much of our defensive issues came from dispossessions that were from lazy dribbling or choreographed passing. My personal belief is that we suffered mightily from not starting Bruno Lapa. Not saying we would’ve gotten a result, but it’s clear this offense still runs through this Bruno-Anderson partnership. Zach Herivaux was essentially filling in the role of Bruno in that central midfielder role. While Zach is an incredible player who deserves playing time, that was not the role to put him in. I would have rather seen Zach in defensive midfield and Asiedu pushed forward. We missed that dribbling ability farther up the pitch.
What Should We Do Next?
Let’s stick with Juan and Enzo up top, if that’s the direction we want to go. I think we have several places we can go. Let’s start with the simplest change.
This feels like the easiest change. Simply switch out Herivaux for Lapa and condense the attacking midfield again. Let Lopez and Dean create the width and allow Asiedu and Lapa to dictate the midfield pace and direction. This is what we saw when we were at our best.
What about something a little more “radical”? Lets get more offense. Let’s get crazy.
The 4-1-1-3-1, or can be a 3-2-1-3-1. Does that sound familiar? It’s how we played against the Battery. You know, our best match of the season? This time we dropped Marlon for Martinez, but that’s to keep Agudelo in the line up. If you wanted to, you could just put Enzo Martinez up top and have Marlon on the wing.
Hot take: Mikey Lopez the defensive midfielder is the best version of Mikey Lopez. One last one. This is my favorite, but so unlikely.
“Oh, stop it, Kaylor! Stop trying to make Horvat happen!” In which I say, “Shut up, nerd. This is my blog.” I think that we could see Edi thrive in this role. His physicality is brilliant, this allows Marlon/Martinez (interchangeable for this system), Lapa, and Kasim to stay in the line up. Sure, this team will probably let in goals, but it should also score just as many. If it doesn’t? Heck, I don’t know. We’re cursed.
Also, fun fact. Did you know Horvat literally translates to “Croatian”? That’s pretty cool.
Post Match Interviews
Here’s both of the post match interviews from the match against The Miami FC, featuring friend Ben Ofeimu and “Hotlinks” Jonny Dean