The boys are back. Vancouver Whitecaps FC return to training this week at the National Soccer Development Centre, officially kicking off their 2018 preseason camp. Throughout the week, whitecapsfc.com will look at the different storylines to watch as the ‘Caps prepare for March 4.
Carl Robinson dropped an interesting nugget in an interview with Vancouver media earlier this month, revealing that he may look to experiment with a back three formation during the preseason.
That certainly will be one of the most interesting storylines to watch over the next month.
"We’ll look at playing three in certain games," Robinson said. "That will stick if we win games. If we don’t, we know we can play a back four. But we’ll certainly have a look at things. I’m excited to challenge myself and my coaches to get the best out of those players in a different system."
As Robinson noted, more and more teams are finding success with a back three in modern day football. In fact, nearly every single English Premier League club deployed a back three at some point during the 2016-17 campaign, including league champions Chelsea FC. So too did the Costa Rican national team – and Whitecaps FC centre back/captain Kendall Waston was a big part of it.
Waston could partner with Tim Parker and recently acquired Canadian centre back Doneil Henry on the back line – and Marcel de Jong could be an option there as well.
There are a few different variations of a back three formation, some that feature two strikers which would allow for a potential Anthony Blondell and Kei Kamara partnership.
"We’ll play with two strikers sometimes this year, we’ll play with one with two behind, we’ll play with two up front and one behind," Robinson said. "It just gives us different options."
One benefit of a three-man back line is that it allows teams to maintain a solid defensive posture, with the two wingbacks usually dropping back to form a back five when the team is out of possession. This system can also create overloads in midfield and in the attacking third when a team is in possession.
The wingbacks have an important role to play in that as well, which is interesting because Whitecaps FC just picked up a pair of them in the first two rounds of last week's 2018 MLS SuperDraft: Justin Fiddes, who can play both left and right back, and Lucas Stauffer, a right back who can also play in the midfield. They also have the likes of Jake Nerwinski, Marcel de Jong, and Brett Levis already in fold. All these players love getting up and down the line – just what you'd want from players in that position.
For some teams, a back three formation can work wonders. But that certainly isn't the case for every team. Either way, it’s something Robinson seems keen to at least explore in the preseason with the hopes of getting the most out of his new group of players.
“It’s all about personnel,” Robinson said. “You put your players in the best positions that will make them successful.”
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