Did the formation change on Friday night?
Philadelphia looked to be playing a slightly different shape in the frustrating scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake. Freddy Adu began on the bench, allowing Gabriel Gomez to line up on the left side of what appeared to be a 4-2-3-1 design.
But interim head coach John Hackworth says that wasn't necessarily the case.
"We didn't really go away (from our shape)," said Hackworth. "It was still a 4-3-3, it was just that Gavi was on the left where Freddy usually is. We wanted Gavi to come in, and add a little bit more to our midfield. So we dropped him back and he showed up high, and (dropped) back, and when he did that we sprung a player forward. We were trying to operate out of the same system, (it was) just a change in personnel, a change in tactics."
The Union backline stayed the same, with the addition of Ray Gaddis at right back for the suspended Sheanon Williams. Danny Cruz played on the right wing with striker Jack McInerney up top.
In the midfield, it was the first time this year that Gomez has operated in a wide role. It was also the first time that Gomez, Brian Carroll, and Michael Lahoud have all started together on the field.
Gomez explained that the role allowed him to help protect the flanks as well.
"That was exactly the function, to play on the left so I could block some of the runs of their (wingers), who are very good going forward," explained Gomez. "I'm a professional and I'll do whatever is asked of me. I'm always ready to do whatever the coach wants."
Carroll has played in almost every design imaginable since joining Philadelphia last year. He's played as a lone holding midfielder in a 4-5-1. He's also played as a second holding midfielder next to both Lahoud and Gomez. But the Union veteran says Friday night's shape was mostly straightforward.
"As far as tactics were concerned, there wasn't too much of a difference," Carroll told philadelphiaunion.com. "At times, I just found myself a little bit higher, stepping up to put on a bit of pressure. In general, we (the midfielders) have the option to rotate a little bit, and go with the flow. But we know our starting positions, and our starting positions weren't really that much different tonight. "
Hackworth also talked about the necessity of dealing with RSL's quality in the center of pitch. It was about accounting for Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, and Ned Grabavoy.
"They're one of the best midfields, if not the best midfield in this league," Hackworth explained. "They're excellent at just passing the ball right through you, right around you, dictating (the game), so that they wear teams town. They didn't do that to us tonight, in every sense of the word. In fact, we probably did it to them a little bit. In my opinion that tactic worked. But possession doesn't get you any points. It doesn't put any balls in the back of the net."