For generations, summers in Minnesota have been filled with barbecues, boats, and the sounds of loons. More recently, we have been blessed with another set of Loons, and next season, a new stadium. The second year of the soccer-playing Loons has coincided with 21st Men’s World Cup. Across the pond, some of the best players and coaches of this generation are on display in this little tournament and there are a few things our Loons could learn, starting with the Umbrella.
The Umbrella is a piece of play used to pin the opponent inside of their defensive third and keep the pressure on while probing for holes. It is characterized by having the two holding midfielders post up around 35 yards from goal and the outside backs will push forward and sit just higher than than the holding midfielders. This allows the front four to do their thing and be more creative without having to worry about losing the ball and being countered on. Several World Cup side have used this including Peru, Germany, and Croatia to name a few. While two of these teams didn’t make the knockout round, Peru earned plaudits for their style of play and Germany lacked finishing, not possession.
In other words, it allows it gives Ibarra, Quintero, and Co 35 yards of space to “try stuff.” The outside backs always being high allows the wings to either push inside to better combine with Ramirez. With a surprising lack of wingers with intact ACLs, more central players wouldn’t be a bad thing. WIth Quintero playing centrally, Collin Martin, naturally a central player has moved up the depth chart. Jerry, Eric Miller, or Gomez outside allows Martin to pinch inside where he feels more at home.
The downside to the Umbrella is that it means the outside backs do not get to overlap. The four in the Umbrella don’t get involved in the attack outside of moving the ball around and distributing it. That means no late runs into the box from Ibson. If the opponent can successfully hold the ball up and bring numbers forward quickly, they will be countering against two centerbacks and no one else. Schuller and Ibson aren’t definite holding midfielders. Despite his stats, Schuller isn’t in the team to tackle players and win the ball. Next on the depth chart is Collen Warner and Maximiano. Neither are stereotypical #6’s, so any turnovers in midfield wouldn’t be pretty. The hope is that any turnover would come with a stoppage in play: a throw-in or goalkick. Turnovers in play would be met with a Loon’s resistance of eight players within 30 yards of the goal to close down the ball. Winner the ball higher allows the Loons to shorten the field and avoid costly turnovers closer to the goal, something Bobby Shuttleworth is sure to appreciate.
With a leaky defense and overworked goalkeeper, the Loons need a way to keep the ball as far away from the goal as possible. The Umbrella pins the ball inside our attacking third and maximizes opportunities for attackers. It may mean sacrificing Ibson for someone with a little more defensive nous, but if it means more points then it may be worth a tweak to Heath’s favored 4-2-3-1.