Courtesy of Ale Tagliabue

Will Adrian Heath Change Formations in MLS?

Ever since Orlando City played its first game in the Citrus Bowl, one of the main constants with the team over the last three years has been winning. This has been mainly attributed to coach Adrian Heath, with his tactics and the formations that he uses. While over the last few years, Heath has had the luxury of being able to choose his preferred players and use them to his advantage, next year will be quite a different experience for the gaffer.

I was able to sit down with Rollins College soccer coach Dr. Keith Buckley, a veteran of over 20 years in coaching, as well as a friend of Heath’s, to discuss Orlando City’s next move in terms of tactics.

Both Rollins and City have similar tactics and formations, with both running a 4-2-3-1 for the majority of their games. Coach Buckley, however, believes this will see modifications going into next year.

“It totally depends on the players that they get,” Buckley remarked, “The biggest issue is going to be finding the right formation to fit Kaká.” Being the $7 million player that he is, Kaká will most likely be what Heath and his staff builds around. Due to the salary cap in MLS, this limits their options as to whom they can acquire. As much as they would love to build their team like they have over the last three years, City’s coaching staff will look at who is best available and then try to strategize around the team they will have come March.

Returning to Heath’s strategies, the 4-2-3-1 and the standard 4-4-2 formations are what he is most comfortable with. What made these formations work in USL Pro was the quality of his players.

“Formations are irrelevant, unless you have the right players, ” said Buckley, “They (Orlando City) had good players, they had the possession most of the time, in fact their biggest struggles were when teams bunkered in, and didn’t give them a lot of time and space to play.”

With these formations, Heath has also had the ability to fine-tune things over the last few years. The players that have come along from the USL Pro bring the added bonus of being quite familiar with it. That being said, going into MLS, Heath does not know for sure what he will do.

“He doesn’t know his tactics and formations, because he doesn’t know his full squad,” Buckley said in our discussion, “Going forward will depend on the squad and, most importantly, what position Kaká will play, having played three or four positions over his career, and what will be the most effective.”

Heath will no doubt have the tactics that he has used previously in his head going into next year, however it is clear to all that the team we see come March will not be the same team we saw in the USL Pro, neither in tactics, nor roster. All we can do is wait and see what players come to Orlando, and how they will fit into Heath’s updated system.


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