While I think it’s highly unlikely that we would ever see a Sporting Kansas City team under Peter Vermes get away from their almost set in stone 4-3-3 formation, I do think it would be interesting to shake it up. Personally I’d like to see Vermes branch out and try something new. I think the way the team is set up right now you almost kind of have to keep that three person midfield, ideally I’d like to see Dom Dwyer have a partner up front, and you’re seeing teams like Chelsea in the English Premier League being very successful with a three person back line. So what would SKC look like in a 3-5-2 formation?
What are Sporting Kansas City’s outside backs known for doing? Getting forward. Case and point Jimmy Medranda. This guy is constantly wanting to get forward to join in with attack (some, including myself, might say too much considering he isn’t always the best at getting back defensively). Ponder a back three that consist of Matt Besler, Ike Opara, and Saad Abdul-Salaam. Besler has already played left back a couple times for the national team, so would it really be such a far off idea to ask him to be on the left side of the defense.
The other key piece to this is Saad Abdul-Salaam. SAS had a breakout season last year and really made the right back position his own. While Saad improved a lot going forward, there’s a lot of room to improve on the ball. Often Saad appears scared to take more than two touches, which I can appreciate a player wanting to not hold on to the ball, but I’d also like to see him be more comfortable when he does need to dribble. So take the pressure off of him of needing to join into the attack, and allow him do what he does very well, at getting the ball to the feet of the center mids.
I wouldn’t say Dom Dwyer has struggled (50 goals in three season would really argue against that point), but a comment that has always been made is that he plays on an island up top. Often times the ball is lumped up to 5’ 9” Dwyer and he is expected to either create a chance for himself, or hold off a center back the size of Kendall Waston (6’ 5”, 195 pounds). So give Dom a partner up top.
For me I’d like to see Gerso Fernandes or Latif Blessing accompany Dwyer up top. Giving another dimension to the attack. Allow Dwyer to sit centrally and allow Fernandes or Blessing to use their speed to get in behind backlines. Why not Diego Rubio (other than the fact that he’ll be out for awhile with a knee injury)? In my opinion Rubio and Dwyer are both looking to stay more centrally. Dom Dwyer causes enough problems for defenses on his own, but think about how much center backs in MLS would struggle if they also had to deal with a second speedy striker making diagonal runs in behind.
The midfield centrally would stay the same, except for possibly flipping the triangle asking Roger to stay defensively a little more with Soni Mustivar. The wings would be the next question. I think Graham Zusi is the obvious choice for the right side. Not only is he the best option on the wing, but he also has the engine to get back and help defensively like you need in a 3-5-2 from your wingers (the 3-5-2 would occasionally look like a 5-3-2 defensively). Jimmy Medranda does a lot of the same things which is why I think he gets the left spot on the wing, another reason why Fernandes has to go up top (doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to have your designated player on the bench).
This formation would take away a lot of the problems that Sporting have had with Dom playing on an island, it would allow them to suffocate defenses with their pressure higher up the field, but it would also leave them a little bit susceptible to being taken advantage of on the wings (if Sporting’s forwards don’t get pressure on the center backs quickly enough they’ll just lump the ball forward to either of the wings where there’s space because of there being no outside backs).
The 3-5-2 isn’t the only formation that could fix some of Sporting’s problems, but I think it would be the easiest transition given the current personnel on the roster. This all being said we know how fond of the 4-3-3 Peter Vermes is, and while I think he’ll live and die by it, I wouldn’t mind seeing him branch out this 2017 season.