Looking around the USL Championship matches during week 4, one noticed that there were a multitude of formations and variations of formations being used to varying degrees of success. San Antonio FC has used two formations to start a match this season and we’ll break down in a bit. So what is more important, the quality of players on a squad or the club’s formation on the pitch?

Formations and philosophy of formations have changed over time, Copa 90 made an outstanding video a few years ago going into detail on this very topic.

Week 4 of USL Championship action saw 15 matches with 10 different formations at the start; from the traditional 4-4-2 to the now popular 4-2-3-1 and the less conventional 3-5-1-1. Most clubs will vary how their formations look within the match, changing a formation based who is available on match day, on subs coming in, the score, or adjusting to how the opposing club is attacking. For the majority of the clock within a match, most clubs do rely on a default formation. Coaches will stick to a formation that the club will train on based on the opponent for the week.

Here’s a how the clubs lined up on week 4 of the USL Championship, 4-2-3-1 ( 11 clubs) 4-4-1-1 ( 4 clubs) 4-3-3 ( 3 clubs) 4-4-2 ( 3 clubs) 4-1-4-1 ( 3 clubs) 3-5-2 (2 clubs) 3-4-1-1 ( 1 club) 4-1-3-2 ( 1 club) and 4-1-2-1-2 (1 club)

It’s difficult to say which formation is the best, a debate that has gone on for years, some traditionalist will say the dutch system of 4-3-3 is the best balanced formation of attack and defense, others will say 4-2-3-1 can lock down most attacking with the help of two defensive holding mids that also have the dual purpose of starting a counter or transition to attack.

Looking at San Antonio FC through the first 4 weeks of the season, here’s how SAFC has shaped up so far.

SAFC started the first 3 matches with a 4-1-4-1 and switched to a 4-1-3-2 for the match against Austin. Through four matches San Antonio FC is 0-1-3 with 1 point and sitting in 17th position in the USL Championship West. SAFC offensively has taken 65 shots with 17 on target and 4 finding the back of the net (one by way of own goal), while the defense has given up 46 shots, 16 being shots on target and 8 being goals.

The 65 total shots has San Antonio FC tied for 1st with 2 other clubs in the USL. SAFC isn’t lacking in fired power, currently on pace for 552 compared to 345 last season. What is lacking so far is quality shots on target and more importantly goals. Possession doesn’t seem to an issue as only one match was grossly out of SAFC’s favor with only 41.2% possession vs Colorado Springs.

On paper, San Antonio FC has an experienced roster that is mixed with talented youth. So far it has not translated well on the pitch. With Pecka seemingly going down with an injury for an extended amount of time, SAFC doesn’t seem to have a true defensive holding mid on its roster to replace him. Michael Lahoud will likely be the defensive holding mid going forward until Pecka is healthy.

So back to the question at hand, does formation really matter? Should SAFC’s formation adjust to Pecka’s absence, maybe a 4-3-3 or maybe go traditional with a 4-4-2? How about the ever popular 4-2-3-1 and who could fill in as the two defensive holding mid positions? Or remain with the 4-1-4-1 used the first three matches?

A formation that could work well for SAFC is the 4-3-3. And could look a little something like this:

GK – Viscosi, RB – Eboussi, RCB – Hernandez, LCB – Yaro, LB – Ackon, RW – Forbes, CM – Barmby, LW – Gomez, RF – Parano, CF – Guzman, LF – Laing

Despite the slow start to the season, SAFC can very well turn it around, the club has a good roster, the shots have increased and defense have played better the last two matches. Head Coach Darren Powell and staff will surely work hard to turn the ship around and the squad has to be resilient moving forward. The club isn’t in bad shape, just need to convert those shots to goals, sometimes is takes a lucky bounce to heat up and get a winning streak going. The losses are behind the club, nothing can done about that expect learn and move on.

The answer to “Do Formations Matter?” They certainly do, no matter the quality of roster, the right formation can make a weaker squad more competitive and the wrong formation could hinder an attack minded squad. So let the debates… begin!


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