Playing the Right Way?By: Brian | March 30th, 2011
It is a phrase often heard throughout sports. â€śThey play the game the right way.â€ť In soccer, fans have always been drawn to Brazil and Spain for their fluid, attacking style of play. In the 1970â€™s, Ajax reinvented the game with their development of â€śTotal Footballâ€ť and it seemed to set the standard for what it means to play the â€śright wayâ€ť. This leads to a question I have been wrestling with for a long time.
Is there really a right way to play or is simply winning the only right way in soccer?
MLS provides us a wonderful test case that allows us to wrestle with this question. Having watched their playoff run, MLS Cup, and their early season performance in 2011, I have come to the conclusion that the Colorado Rapids are good, but they are ugly and sometimes damn painful to watch.
For those of us who have yet to block out the foul-fest that was MLS Cup 2010, we remember seeing more of a rugby match than good soccer at times. Yet, the strategy employed by Gary Smith is working. After all, Colorado are the defending champions and they have started this season by getting all 6 points and have a +3 goal differential out of the gate.
The Rapids strategy seems to be:
#1 – Build a fast and physical defense that is not afraid to constantly put a body on opponents. In a sense they force the officials to allow a physical game. With their constant pushing and harassing of the opponents forwards the referee must decide if he will blow the whistle every 30 seconds or allow for extremely physical play off the ball. This is a wise, calculated gamble because most refs know that nobody wants a game with no flow and constant whistles.
#2 â€“ Pair a speedy forward with a physical forward to launch quick counterattacks. Very few defenders in MLS (or the world) have the physical presence of Conor Casey. When the defense wins a ball and plays it forward to Casey, no one is pushing him off the ball. He simply needs to collect and distribute into open space for someone like Omar Cummings or Quincy Amarikwa to run onto it and finish.
#3 â€“ Keep your cool. Physical matches always raise the level of emotions. In last years MLS Cup final, Colorado seemed to keep their anger in check in little better than FC Dallas did. At the final whistle, this may have been the difference between the two sides.
I think Colorado has given us a very deliberate and ugly style of soccer. Yet, they have figured out a winning formula. Therefore, the question still remains, do they play the game the â€śright wayâ€ť?
What are your thoughts….the right way?