Steve Davis of MLSnet.com writes about MLS clubs that are using tactics like low-pressure defending to slow down their opposition.
Watching the Los Angeles Galaxy right now is a little like eating institutional food. You know, that drab grub served up school cafeterias and hospitals. It's not anything you'll find in glossy gourmet magazines, but it provides calories and a few nutrients and gets the job done.
That's what we have in Los Angeles and, on some weeks at least, in other places around Major League Soccer. As teams travel and deal with increasingly packed schedules, more managers are acquiescing to the urge to go defensive.
The other side of that equation is the difficult task of trying to unlock a defense applying low-pressure tactics. And good luck with all that.
Applying low-pressure strategies is more than just getting a lot of players behind the ball, although that's the root of the maneuver.
High-pressure teams (D.C. United and Houston are good examples) want to win back possession immediately after losing the ball. So players around the field step closer to opponents and attempt to harass and apply pressure quickly and in unison.
By contrast, low-pressure tactics emphasize initial delay upon lost possession, generally using one man to provide the quick pressure, hoping also to provide enough time for the team to regroup, get organized and get numbers behind the ball. From there, midfielders attempt to clog passing lanes and interrupt entry probes. Meanwhile, the back line sits back patiently, awaiting opportunities to pounce on passes or menace attackers that manage to find their way through the mire.
Low pressure worked for the visiting Galaxy against Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday, in part, because of two big center backs who are comfortable winning balls in the air. Omar Gonzalez and Gregg Berhalter are tall and agile enough to gobble up aerial attempts in and around the top of the penalty area. That essentially removes one option from the attack, because pumping in hopeful balls is only an option of very last resort.
Instead, teams have to be creative. They have to work the edges and move balls quickly around the field, hoping to avoid the numerical advantages that make low-pressure defenses work.