Rochester will be without the services of star winger J.C. Banks (red card against Orlando) along with attacking midfielder Tyler Rosenlund and withdrawn forward Tam McManus (both due to yellow card accumulation) because of suspension by the league. The team will be able to cope without Rosenlund and McManus, but the loss of Banks will be a major blow. Without Banks, missing the game because of a red card against Orlando, the team will have to find another outlet out of the back and primary source for penetrating runs forward. The absence of McManus from the squad opens up the possibility for head coach Jesse Myers to play two forwards up top.
Once I realized that Myers doesn’t have the personnel (or the know-how) to properly line up a 4-4-1-1, I’ve been waiting for the team to switch to a 4-4-2. There are two common types of forward partnerships in a 4-4-2 formation that have been successful in global football. When a team has a tall center forward like 6’3″ Emmanuel Adebayor for Tottenham Hotspur last season or 5’9″ Abby Wambach for the United States Women’s National Team, the coach usually opts to go in one of two routes with the strike partner. A player like Jermain Defoe, a small quick-footed goal poacher, hovers around the last defender and waits for his teammates to nod balls on to him. However, a player like Alex Morgan will tirelessly chase down balls played into the corner. Her experience as a winger and natural speed enable her to effortlessly beat defenders to balls played over the top to the corners (or anywhere on the field).
Both of these options require a tall center forward as a target man. Luckily for the Rhinos, both Andrew Hoxie (6’4″) and Isaac Kissi (6’1″) can fulfill that role. Hoxie can be the target forward who nods balls on to a more advanced Kissi playing on the shoulder of the last defender. This requires strong wing play from the wide midfielders to spread the ball and play crosses into the box. Or Kissi can be the target man in the center of the field while 6’0″ speedster Kendell McFayden chases down balls the midfield or defense plays up. In this system, McFayden will run down wide balls so the outside midfielders don’t need to push up the field as high. Add to this mix recent signing Karo Okiomah (6’2″) who has high level experience playing up top and the Rhinos have a lot of options in the strike force.
The absence of Rosenlund due to suspension forces a much needed shake up in the team’s midfield. Tenacious tackler Michael Tanke should find himself in a starting spot against Charleston. If coach Myers has confidence in Drew Cost’s passing ability, he will play in central midfield and Danny Earls will move to the outside. If not, Earls will continue playing the passing role in midfield and Chris Estridge will play in left midfield.
Quavas Kirk may play in the midfield on the right side as he has done on several occasions this season. If Kirk plays right back instead of Lucas Fernandez, Myers may choose to play Conor Chinn for just the 14th time. Chinn has featured 371 minutes in 13 games for an average of 27 minutes per appearance and just 19% of the team’s total minutes this season.
Rochester has four capable forwards who could feature against Charleston Battery. Andrew Hoxie has the technical ability to play in teammates or make two feet of space for himself to get a close range shot off. Kendell McFayden has the speed to chase down balls played over the top as he did with great success against Antigua Barracuda FC early last month. Isaac Kissi has the strength to hold off defenders and the hunger to put in the extra effort to beat the opposition. We haven’t seen Karo Okiomah suit up yet this season, but several MLS teams were interested in his ability so he should be able to perform for the Rhinos.
The team doesn’t have enough midfielders to play a 4-5-1 or the right players for a 4-4-1-1. Playing two dynamic strikers up top in a 4-4-2 would give the Rhinos the best chance to beat Charleston. Playing Tanke in a defensive midfield role provides cover for the back four while Kirk and Estridge would be natural defenders playing in midfield. This frees Danny Earls (or Drew Cost) to move forward on the play to exchange passes with the forwards while the outside midfielders play deep crosses.
While Charleston can be a dangerous team, the Rhinos don’t need to be too defensive. Playing with two forwards gives Rochester the firepower necessary to score against the Battery while maintaining a strong midfield. I don’t see head coach Jesse Myers choosing any formation besides a traditional 4-4-2. The game should be more open and flowing going forward while remaining tight at the back for the Rhinos.
Let’s go Rhinos.