Here’s some bad news to start the day: Sacramento Republic has lost its last three games in a row. Not only that, but the team has also gone three games without even scoring a goal.
In my opinion, part of that problem stems from what seems to be a mismatch between the team's offensive approach and the personnel on the field.
Coach Buckle likes to move the ball quickly up the pitch. This is currently achieved primarily in two ways: long passes out from the center backs direct to Republic’s forwards, or speed and combination play in wide positions along the touchline that lead to crosses into the box. As Eeyster wrote the other day, this approach ends up leading to a lot of crosses. This is neither a good or a bad thing on it’s own, but the lack of production in the last few games points to a problem.
In my opinion, there are two ways to address this. One is to change the personnel. The other is to change the style of play. Today’s I will discuss the former, looking at how utilizing some different players could positively affect the game.
Some of the poor offensive production stems from having a rather short set of attacking talent in a system reliant on crossing. Strikers Kneeshaw and Ceaser, as well as attacking midfielders Barrera and Trickett-Smith, are all under six feet tall. This presents a problem when trying to get on the end of high crosses into the penalty box. As seen last weekend against Portland Timbers 2, a big pair of center-backs can easily clear Republic’s crosses and effectively deny scoring opportunities.
To remedy this, a taller set of attackers may be beneficial. Buckle could continue to use his 4-4-1-1 formation, but with 6 foot tall Harry Williams partnering with Ochoa as a striker. Williams has much more to offer other than pure height, however. He has good pace and touch, plus an ability to make clever runs that split the defense. Much like Kneeshaw, he should work well with Ochoa’s good link up play.
Out wide, the 6 foot 2 inch tall Tyler Blackwood should be starting. His pace and strength have already impressed this season and should be utilized every game he is fit. On the opposite side, Barrera should continue his free role as playmaker.
In the center of the pitch, Hall should absolutely remain in his holding role, but perhaps the 6 foot 1 inch Enrique Montano would make a good partner. Although he is listed as a defender, his versatility could make him an effective holding midfielder who could come forward to add height in attack. A pair of defensive midfielders will also provide a solid shield in front of the center backs, who are often left to fend for them selves after marauding runs by Republics fullbacks. In fact, having two defensively minded midfielders could let Klimenta move forward into attack during times when Republic is dominating possession.
The team’s crossing and set piece delivery has been excellent this season. Elliot Hord in particular has been delivering some stunning, tricky balls into dangerous areas. Perhaps changes to the starting eleven can help convert more of those good chances.
Later, we will take a look at tactical changes that could unlock Republic’s offense. But for now, let me know what you think of switching up the players in attack. Does the team need more height up front? Are the crosses not good enough? Say your piece in the comments below.