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Just Winging it: Minnesota United’s Potential Playbook

With so many wide players on the roster, how could the Loons make the best use of them?

Goose Farms Prepare For Christmas Season Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Minnesota United recently acquired Simon Dawkins, a central attacking player who most recently played for the San Jose Earthquakes.

Spoiler alert: He’s a winger. With this move the Loons now have a total of seven natural wide players on the roster. Jose Leiton, Sam Nicholson, Miguel Ibarra, new arrival Frantz Pangop, and now Dawkins play on the left with Ethan Finlay and Kevin Molino on the right. Molino and Ibarra have both played centrally last year and in past years, but it should be said that neither of them are at their best when in the middle. With a very wide and lopsided roster, lets have some fun and take a look at a few tactical options to make the best use of all these players.

The Flying V(3-2-2-2-1):

Starting in goal I would have Matt Lampson. He had better passing stats last year than Bobby Shuttleworth and distribution to wide players will be key. The back three would consist of Brent Kallman in the middle and Francisco Calvo and Jerome Thiesson on either side. Both wide players would have license to get forward and join in on the attack. The first midfield pair would be central midfield players to sit in and shield the back three. Sam Cronin and our maybe-on-the-way Brazilian midfielder, Luiz Fernando (hopefully), will do just fine. The next set of two will line up just outside of the center midfielders like slot receivers, Molino on the right and Ibarra on the left. Both would be comfortable in the middle, but would also have to get back and cover on defense. The next set would be Finlay and Nicholson. They would operate like actual wingers and feed in service to the one up top: Christian Ramirez. There is plenty of depth at winger and forward with the addition of Mason Toye to make sure everyone in the front three has fresh legs.

The Flying V: Ibarra and Molino aren’t ideal central players, but maybe this could work with some minor edits...

The Perpetual Overlap(2-2-1-2-2-1):

Basketball has the three man weave. Hockey has some form of three man weave. The Loons could show up this spring rocking a perpetual overlap. For this defensively terrible formation Shuttleworth would start in goal. He looks like a better pure shot-stopper than Lampson right now and he might end up facing a lot of shots. The two centerbacks could be Kallman and new boy Wyatt Omsberg. Neither are the quickest, but not slow either and Omsberg showed that he can be calm in possession in his 45 minutes against the Battery. Both are tall and should be able to defend well against aerial threats. The first two would line up just ahead of the centerbacks and stay wide. Left would be Calvo and right would be Thiesson. No surprises there. The one in the middle would be someone who can facilitate play and move the ball side to side when needed. Ibson fits that mold if he can be survive a full season. Another option might be Collen Warner who had the best pass completion percentage after Ibson. The next two pairs could be any four from the glut of wingers on the roster. Due to the need to overlap repeatedly, both of these players would be pushed as wide as possible to leave space for the man on the ball to cut inside or play the overlap. The three wide players on each side could operate a three man weave while the weak side sinks in and rotates to provide cover on defense. Again, Ramirez would start up top, but this time due to his size and ability to hold the ball up. The ball has to come centrally at some point and having someone strong in the middle would help.

The Perpetual Overlap: Three man weave on the ball side, weak side plays defense

The Desperation(3-1-4-2):

The buzzer beater, the Hail Mary, and now...The Desperation. This combines the best of last minute plays for an entire match. Due to the defensive liabilities in this formation, Shuttleworth gets the nod, at least until we find out if Lampson is a better shot-stopper or he can kick farther. The back three would consist of Marc Burch, Boxall, and Calvo, if for no other reason than they don’t fit in my plans for the other half of the field. The one in the middle would either be Cronin or Warner. Cronin if more defense is needed and Warner if his passing abilities could be used. The four across the front would be any four wingers lined up outside of the front two. The main part is that they are fast and tricky. The final two would again be on a committee basis. The two would be any players north of 6’2”. Christian Ramirez, Mason Toye, Bertrand Owundi Eko’o, and Brent Kallman are all good target men who could flick on headers to the smaller quicker wide players and spin in behind to get into the box. This is a very simple formation and players could mostly be interchanged at will. The back four defend for their lives and pump it upfield, someone wins a header and someone else runs onto it and scores. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of hope for this one. If it was effective, then there would be no reason to change tactics between U8 and professional.

The Desperation: Last second plays work every now and then, so if you do it for the whole game you’ll get a couple goals out of it, right?

Pros to these lineup options: we could score a lot of goals and also make use of a lot of the players we’ve spent the last year collecting.

Cons: We would give up goals. A lot of goals. A record breaking amount of goals. The 2017 Loons would no longer have the record for the league’s worst defense; it would belong to the 2018 Loons.

Lets hope Adrian Heath does not follow my advice, but since the news coming from the team in the past few days has been winger-heavy, we might as well have some fun with it.