With Week One in the books and a little taste of what we can expect from teams, you can expect adjustments, player rotations, and even more surprises in Week Two. However, these are the five things that I am really going to be watching for.
As I said in my recap article for Week One, there were a ton of gifts given to teams because of bad communication from the backlines. When you look at the score lines and see that Chattanooga only lost by 1 and Richmond only lost by 1, you realize that had it not been for the giveaways in the back, Richmond and Red Wolves could have very well had a point or maybe even 3 on the table.
Although not an ideal start, both teams have a chance for redemption as Richmond plays at home against a Tormenta team playing their 3rd game in 8 days and Chattanooga play their first home game ever against the only team who has yet to ever play a professional soccer game.
Birds Flying South
Even though I just mentioned that Chattanooga has a good bounce back opportunity this weekend playing at home, it could be a double-edged sword for a team that’s not able to really scope out their opponents. As Forward Madison travel for their first regular season game ever, there are a lot of questions about the team and their tactics. Up until literally a couple days ago, I was not sure about their defensive depth and if Pato would be their only overlapping back. I was also not sure if Paulo Jr would be enough to provide the offensive power to keep up with a league where four teams have already scored 3 goals in a game. But, then came the Loons.
Mason Toye: A forward who wasn’t getting the time he needed in MLS (A little over 300 minutes last season), is straight QUALITY. Proven in America’s top league, I believe this is a game changer for Forward and allows JC Banks to have his back to goal and come back to the ball, where he excels at passing, give and gos, and working off another striker.
Carter Manley: Remember when I asked if Pato was going to be the only overlapping back? Sure isn’t! Carter loves going forward so much, he probably fits the name Forward Madison more than anyone else on that team. With an assist last year in MLS and over 500 minutes of playing time, his experience and ability to spread the defensive wide will be key to opening the middle and putting pressure on the Center backs to aerial duels.
Wyatt Omsberg: Set pieces just became a lot more fun for Madison. Scoring two goals this preseason, Wyatt becomes an immediate threat and will be a nightmare for teams that give up corners. With Turbo and Wyatt in the air, the communication needs to get better for USL League one teams and FAST
Fire vs Water
I’ve said all preseason that Lansing is going to press you like a kid presses an elevator button so much. It probably wasn’t a surprise to see them score two of their three goals in their win last week from the press. However, the league’s most productive offense is on the road against one of the best defenses. While Harkes’ Greenville side didn’t come home with a W from Tormenta in Week One, one thing they did come home with was knowledge that their defensive plan works and works well.
As one of my cohosts, Chris Ashley, alluded to on our League 1 Fun podcast, you can take a look at the heat map and see that Tormenta barely had the ball anywhere in Greenville’s box. The compact defense was completely organized and flowed seamlessly throughout the game like the ocean. But like the ocean, it’s not always calm and can be dangerous to try to sail against. Along with 8 tackles and 2 interceptions, Tyler Polak also was incredibly dangerous down the side. On the other side of the wing, newcomer Chris Bermudez may have impressed me more than anyone on Greenville with his dribbling, ability to create chances (3) and his trackback speed. When the two fastest players in the league in Lansing’s Steeve Saint-Duke, Tumi Moshobane try to take set ablaze to Greenville on the side, will the defense be able to stay calm or will we be looking at a, Tuminami. (I’m so sorry)
The Kids are Alright
While the kids of North Texas SC dominated headlines after a Ricardo Pepi hat trick and a great performance against Red Wolves’ most veteran defense in the league, it’s time to see what the other kids can do. Toronto II and Orlando City B face off Friday night in Toronto’s first appearance in the league. Many neutrals may look at this game and think it would be a snooze fest, but I actually think the opposite.
Last week against FC Tucson, Orlando showed a lot of quality attack and even dominated possession 60 to 40% despite being down a man for half the game. Will Bagrou pressed very well and showed that he is not afraid to be physical, something that can be very frustrating against a young backline in their first game. Goal scorer Oseiu-Wusu was also a handful against one of the predicted best defenses in the league. However, Toronto has also shown they have a powerful attack and will be looking to set a standard in their first ever USL League One game. Jordan Perruzza is a well-balanced striker who has great shooting, heading, and passing ability. The Canadian Youth National team player always plays hard even off the ball and is not afraid of doing the dirty work. Something I’ll be keeping an eye on and so should you.
Don’t Poke the Bird
Richmond struggled against Lansing’s press last week as I’m sure a lot of teams playing them for the first time will. After the first half woes, in the second half, they played very well and were a couple more minutes away from potentially tying up a 3-0 deficit they faced in the 2nd half. This was because of the passing out the back, cored by goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald. Richmond will be focusing on getting back injured players and having better communication in the back as they showed a glimpse of what could be a very dangerous style that teams in the league may struggle against. However, don’t play too much into what Tormenta want.
The number one team in the league has now played two games and has only given up one goal (and that was off a free kick). Tormenta does an extremely good job of congesting the middle and absorbing the offense attack and it shows as they lead the league in 52 clearances this year. They are also a very tall backline and rarely lose aerial duels as well winning both the percent battles in their first two games. (65 and 55%). So why is this important? Tormenta use this advantage to counter attack, and that’s truly the last thing you’ll want to see. Players like Cutinho, Morrell, and Marco Micaletto are up the field in a blink of an eye and if your transition defense is not ready, you might as well keep your eyes closed.