Just when the Fire and their fans thought they had turned a corner, another three points were dropped. Consistency has been lacking thus far this season to say the least. Options up front haven’t worked effectively enough and the defensive cohesion with Arne Friedrich has been absent. Midfield is where the abundance of talent lies. With a handful of players lacking consistent playing time, a shuffle in formation or a trade can help towards balancing out the roster.
Outside of the top four teams in the Eastern conference, it’s a real crap shoot as to which club can nab the fifth spot. Aside from lowly D.C United, the other three teams are plagued with inconsistency just like the Fire. With that said, the season is in fact still young. Now would be the time to start implementing a new formation in training if the current 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 keeps failing to produce consistent results.
Granted Gonzalo Segares is a natural fullback but he’s had experience in the center, and anchoring a three man backline. Alongside Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba you’d have the three best defenders on the pitch. This then makes Wells Thompson and even Hunter Jumper valuable fourth defenders to come on in a straight substitution or mid-game formation change. Up front you can pair MacDonald and Rolfe side by side, or start Santos alongside MacDonald with Rolfe pushed back into an attacking midfield role. Assuming Rolfe starts up front you can stick Joel Lindpere in his desired central midfield role with an attacking emphasis. Down the flanks you would obviously keep Nyarko, on the right, with Dilly Duka or Daniel Paladini on the left. Logan Pause and Jeff Larentowicz would remain in their familiar holding roles. This formation would allow more of the productive players to be on the pitch at once, no longer needing to try and fit square pegs into round holes.
This needs to be prefaced with the condition that a different lone starting striker would need to be brought in. This can be more of an option for next season, unless a real goal scoring forward is brought in during the summer transfer window. Patrick Nyarko would excel as a winger in a 4-3-3 system. Sending in crosses, dribbling into the box, and tracking back to defend are three things he does well, and are essential of a winger in this system. The question here is whether Dilly Duka would suffice on the opposite wing. Perhaps this is where Corben Bone can be brought into shine (does anybody know his true position anyway?) or maybe Yazid Atouba. The back four would remain as they are now with Wells Thompson as a stop gap at RB. Midfield would be patrolled by a combination of Pause, Larentowicz and Lindpere with the aforementioned Duka and Bone able to possibly shuffle in. However, this would leave Daniel Paladini as a situational substitute, unless he proves he can cover a vast area or play on the wing.
Midfielders are in abundance on the roster. A few of the ones with any real trade value are new acquisitions. That leaves Patrick Nyarko and Logan Pause as the midfield mainstays who could be coveted by other teams. It’s safe to assume Pause will finish the season, and most likely his career as a member of the Fire. Nyarko on the other hand presents interesting trade bait. Trading him in the middle of the season this year would be a classic case of addition by subtraction. Add a striker, subtract arguably the best distributor of the ball. He’s too valuable to trade for a short term solution in defense.
With all of this said, it’s clear that a significant trade during the season is highly unlikely. We could be looking at the off-season as a time to wheel and deal the likes of a Duka, Lindpere and/or Larentowicz.
To be clear, tactics are not entirely to blame for the Fire’s poor start. Away form has been poor, and a killer instinct in front of goal has been lacking. Injuries along the back four have created selection dilemmas for Frank Klopas. There is only so much that can be done. Are the Fire still in the market for Bakary Soumare? If so, what would the Union ask for in return? Robbie Rogers began training in Los Angeles, and as Ryan Sealock alluded to, he may only be interested in coming back to play for the Galaxy. If that is the case would the LA Galaxy be willing to trade a player for the rights to Rogers? It would appear that if things get worse, and solid home form won’t be enough to clinch a playoff spot, a formation change would be needed. Let’s not jump the gun just yet though. The season is young and home form has been solid thus far. If that’s enough, great. But if a day comes when it isn’t, Frank Klopas and staff will need a tactical formation change in their back pocket.