More work means more Orlando City SC success in latest formation

• Three defenders not a new formation
• Orlando City squad has to work harder
• They’re enjoying the ride
May 18, 2024; San Jose, California, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Cristian Espinoza (10) plays
May 18, 2024; San Jose, California, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Cristian Espinoza (10) plays / Robert Kupbens-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City SC players are having to put in a lot more work in the back-three formation. All of them.

But ending the bad game streak suffered earlier this season means all the players are looking forward to game day a lot more.

Wilder Cartagena, the midfielder converted to a hybrid defender in Orlando’s three-defender scheme, was the first to emphasize how much work the formation requires. Yet, he said it’s made the team better and they enjoy more possession.

But midfielders have to take more responsibility in controlling the ball and helping on defense. Still, even in their previous formations, Orlando was calling on some attacking midfielders to line up as dedicated defenders.

Then opponents started consistently lining up in the back three, causing Orlando grief on the pitch. As SC began drilling against the back three, they discovered they already had personnel that fit that scheme. So they started playing it, themselves.

The three-defender system requires wingers to fill in the line when under attack. There were enough SC players naturally suited to this. So coaches knew it would work for them. And match-over-match, it’s not only working, but they’re getting better at it.

The 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 versions of the back three aren’t unusual in pro soccer. Chelsea is a team that regularly uses one of the versions.

A three-defender system started appearing in the early 20th century, called the W-M formation. Later, modern-looking schemes showed up in Italy. Later, an offensive-focused version of the formation appeared in Barcelona.

Orlando defender David Brekalo said he has enjoyed the improvisation. He and  Cartagena emphasized that they have gotten to know their teammates better on the pitch. That’s because they must know where to expect the players to be.

That focus is key to everything in Orlando City soccer – passing success, possession, creating chances, scoring, and winning points.

Until head coach Oscar Pareja finds a formation that fits the team better for success, we’ll see more of this. As the squad members on the backline say, it requires more work for them and their teammates.

A wise person once said hard work isn't the means to life’s rewards. Hard work and all that goes with it is the reward. Just look at Orlando City SC lately and you’ll see.

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