Welcome to another episode of Jiggly’s Guide to Strategy. Last week Jiggly’s All-Stars demolished the LA Galaxy in the first game of the season and we learned about the standard 4-2-3-1 and how many crosses we can put into the box. This week, we’re going to see a very familiar looking formation. But first, some mid-week housekeeping.
Unsurprisingly, 6 Fire players made the MLS Team of the Week: Seira, Momo, Mako, Megumin, Ichigo, and Mai-san. A bit more surprising, Mai-san just missed out on Player of the Week, which went to Yura Movsisyan. For those who’ve followed the Fire as closely as I have, you’ll understand the comedy in that fact. My assistant keeps trying to schedule a friendly with Sporting KC’s reserve team, but I think I’ve solved that for the future. Komi-san is back, but she’s still not completely match fit, so she will be starting out on the bench for this game.
So this week, I want to try out a formation with a similar structure to what we used last week, but with a different mindset. The numbers name for this formation is a “4-2-2-1-1” but that’s a mouthful. It’s not a true 4-4-1-1, which we’ll look at next week, so let’s just look at the shape of it for inspiration.
This idea originally started out as just moving all five midfielders back, but I realized that left too much space between the midfield and the lone forward. To remedy this, I moved up the central midfielder to the 10 spot, but in practice they won’t be a full “10”. They’re just a midfielder who happens to be playing a bit further up. I guess it sorta looks like the ship from Galaga. At least that’s what it looks like to me. So, I now dub this formation the “Galaga”. If you have any other suggestions, I’ll take it. For now, it’s the Galaga Formation.
Now that we’ve got that done, I want to take a moment to explain that our mentality this week will be much more defensive. We will be playing close to the back, we’ll look to hold back for most of the game. This is called “Negative Football” because you’re essentially moving backwards. Everything is reactionary. To be honest, this isn’t a good strategy for our team since Negative Football is usually utilized by teams with lesser talent. We have literally all the talent in the world right here.
We see here that what I said last week about the popularity of the 4-2-3-1 remains true, with our opponents the Vancouver Whitecaps lining up in that formation against us. Let’s see how they fare.
Oh dear. What in the world has happened here?
There’s no apparent reason I can see. And full disclosure, this is the second time this game’s been simmed. The last time we lost 1-0 as well (we had a bad injury and I didn’t want to lose a player for two months, Vigne’s injury is only a week or so). So how can the Fire out-shoot and out-everything the Whitecaps and still lose. For this, I want to point out some stuff from actually in the game. Last week we used heat maps, but situational evidence is much more useful to explain the flaws of Negative Football and why it didn’t work out for us.
I feel like I knew we were going to give up a goal on this play, because I took a screenshot right before Jordan Smith cut out wide and put the cross in. Notice how bunched up Chicago is. How far away the attack is. This isn’t a horrible plan, but it’s not good football either. All 9 of these players fit in between the lines of the box and in between the circle and the box. This allows Vancouver to play the ball around their defense without too much pressure and look at those wide players on the bottom and the top of the screen. There is no white within the block created by the Fire, but there are serious cracks on the outside. Let’s look a few moments later.
We see here that the defense has broken out of the block and has gone into man marking. There are four Fire players in the box and only two Vancouver attackers. Rui and Violet are on the far post covering Kekuta Manneh while Mako and Darkness are handling the near post runner in Octavio Rivero. Somehow this numerical advantage proves useless when Mako decides to cover the shot instead of the cross, moving back towards the goal instead of forward to intercept the pass. Rivero scores on the end of this cross.
To compare, let’s look at what seemed to be a common occurrence in this game: A Tohru cross into the box getting intercepted. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid attempted 11 crosses in this game from the left wing, only completing two of them. Of those 11 attempts, 6 were intercepted by the defense. Note how few players the Fire even have forward. Chicago only has three players in the final third, including Tohru herself. This is a symptom of the defensive strategy I have in place. We see Ami and Mai-san completely smothered by 6 defenders. As the cross is attempted, Tim Parker gets in between Ami and the ball to eliminate the threat.
I think that the main takeaway for all of you readers here is that not every tactical style can work for every team. Jiggly’s All-Stars just aren’t the sort of team who works well sitting back and that will be a recurring theme as we move on through this season. On the other hand, if you’re going up against a stronger opponent, sitting back can be the right move. There is no one stronger than Chicago in this universe and that’s what made them vulnerable. Next week we’ll look to move on from this and push forward a bit more.