I have never been a fan of a one-person attacking formation at the start of a soccer game. Nursing a one-goal lead or holding out for a road draw, those are different stories.
Unless you have Marta as that one attacker, you are setting yourself up for a midfield/defensive battle, with your main weapon being some quick counterattacks.
The Chicago Red Stars have opened games with their one-man attacking option, but since Day 1, this organization has said that it has some offensive weapons. If so, why are they dropping back to the midfield? Perhaps Chicago's lack of scoring and current last-place stance in the Women's Professional Soccer standings can partly be averted with a different formation and by moving some personnel around.
On Saturday, the Red Stars had to resort to a 3-4-3 formation switch late in the first half after falling behind, 2-0, to the first-place Los Angeles Sol. Shortly after, Lindsay Tarpley (pictured) almost notched a goal, but she was offside. L.A. topped Chicago, 4-0.
Surprisingly, this season still isn't lost for the Red Stars (2-5-6, 11 points), despite the lack of a victory since April 25. I would hand first place and a guaranteed seat in the championship to the Sol (10-4-1, 34 points) this very minute, and I'm sure many others feel the same way.
But those three other playoff spots are not out of the picture for Chicago. The Red Stars need to make a move, and fast. They don't have the defensive stability to rely on the 3-4-3 they had Saturday, but they should embrace the three-person attacking front.
I am not a coach, so take this with a grain of salt. But this would be my ideal lineup and formation:
B. Klein / M. Rapinoe / C. Lloyd
F. Ostberg / J. Oakes / M. Dalmy / Spilger or Dieke
First, Cristiane (left) needs to be a regular starting option. Why she has not started the past couple of games is a huge mystery. She is a speedster and a creator, and a vital person to have in every game. With this formation, this keeps Cristiane and Karen Carney up front, and if the team needs midfield/defensive assistance,Tarpley can fall back a bit in a temporary and conventional 4-4-2. Push up, but be cognizant of the opposing team's defensive line. The offside calls have been too repetitive.
As far as the central players in this 4-3-3, I feel more comfortable with the likes of Megan Rapinoe and Marian Dalmy in the central midfield and defense. Rapinoe naturally will move all over the place. But with this setup, this forces two of the more sure-footed players within the heavy traffic in the center of the field. Obviously Chicago needs a healthy Dalmy, who is nursing an ankle injury. I think Jill Oakes can handle central back duties against most teams, but not by herself.
Not listed in this formation, I would be open to inserting Dalmy or Frida Ostberg into the midfield while dropping back Brittany Klein, who has not contributed much on the offensive end in quite some time. And, Chioma Igwe is a midfield option, too, since she feels comfortable in that role. Carli Lloyd still has not played up to par, so Red Stars head coach Emma Hayes has a midfield group she can try to tinker with.
The only way for this 4-3-3 to work the rest of the way is if their midfield runs like crazy for 90 minutes and equally helps out on both ends of the field, without creating a huge gap from line to line. That might be asking for quite a bit now that the second half of the season is in full swing, but they need to take this approach to create some noise and move up in the standings.
Aside from Saturday's Red Stars defeat and their 4-0 victory over the Boston Breakers in April, most WPS games have been dramatically low in the scoring department. Going with a three-forward front could put a charge into the Red Stars' offense without jeopardizing some things in the back. Thankfully they have goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson as the defensive backbone.
The Red Stars believe they have the right personnel. Hayes has juggled some things around, but that one-forward setup is not reliable. It's time to place some confidence in the team's attackers and push them up, because time is running out.