Soccer attributes success to formation change

Said Blitz: “The thing about this team is that they have enough versatility that we can change to help us solve issues during the game.”
Missouri Tigers middle Kaitlyn Clark (7) moves to evade Vanderbilt's defense Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014 at the Audrey J. Walton Soccer Stadium. Missouri beat Vanderbilt 2-0.

The Missouri soccer team wrapped up last season with an overall record of 8-9-3, going 4-4-3 in the Southeastern Conference.

With a current overall record of 9-2-2, 4-1-0 SEC, this year has already been kinder to the Tigers.

The success could be a product of new freshman talent or senior leadership, but it seems there is something more technical at work.

Mizzou’s tactics on the field have changed. The Tigers’ formation was altered from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 during the offseason in an attempt to use wingers to feed their forwards, rather than having to rely on defenders.

“I think it suits the way we play,” Mizzou coach Bryan Blitz said. “We have a lot of center forwards and a lot of wide players in the midfield who all work together, and from that standpoint, it really helps us.”

4-4-2 is one of the most commonly used formations in soccer, so the players are no strangers to the style of play. Many of the Tigers played in this shape during their high school and club soccer careers, according to senior forward Taylor Grant, who partially attributes her career-high six goals this season to the formation change.

“It just gives us more space to play,” Grant said. “We’re really good with the ball at our feet, and everybody has a little more space to do what they need to do and to open up to have more options.”

While the 4-4-2 is the Tigers’ primary formation, Blitz has realized that there are games in which the formation must change.

In a double overtime non-conference match over Montana last month, Mizzou’s change from 4-4-2 to 3-4-3 seemed to be the deciding factor to give the Tigers the edge with five minutes left in the game.

“The thing about this team is that they have enough versatility that we can change to help us solve issues during the game,” Blitz said. “This team is unique because we’re able to shift throughout the game and throughout halves.”

Sophomore midfielder Melanie Donaldson said she believes that the team can perform with most formations and that it helps to be able to shift.

“(The 4-4-2 formation) is better because we see the whole field and get a feel for what the other team is doing,” she said. “But we’re also very comfortable with the 4-3-3 because that’s just an advantage for going on the run.”

Blitz said that changes in formation can depend on a number of things — from the score of the game, to the matchups, to the team’s health.

With the 4-4-2 formation being the base of every game, the Tigers are third in the SEC Eastern Division and fourth in the SEC overall.

Blitz said the formation change isn’t the sole reason Mizzou has succeeded this season.

“We’ve been fortunate that when someone’s not on, there’s always someone there to pick up the slack,” Blitz said. “As a coach, we’re glad that we have that kind of skill set, and it’ll hopefully give us an opportunity to go a little bit further.”

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