COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — When the Colorado Rapids hired Oscar Pareja as their head coach in January, the Rapids made a commitment to playing more possession-based, attack-oriented soccer. And to fit the new philosophy, Pareja introduced a 4-3-3 tactical formation to fit Colorado’s pursuit of more goals.
But about halfway through the year, Pareja began to tinker with tactics, switching to a more traditional 4-4-2 and even a 4-5-1 as the Rapids tried several different looks throughout the season. In 2013, however, the Rapids are looking to settle on a set formation — and stick with it.
“I know Oscar’s preference is a 4-3-3, but you also have to have the personnel to play out of that,” Rapids technical director Paul Bravo told MLSsoccer.com last week. “Do we have the personnel? Maybe not.
"This roster was pretty much set in November. So when you look at the timing of everything, it was like, ‘Here you go, Oscar. Try and get us back to the playoffs and win us a championship with the group that we already picked for you.’ [But] would I like to see some consistency with [tactics]? Yes.”
Bravo is looking to add depth to give Pareja the flexibility to play out of his preferred 4-3-3. Squad depth was frequently a problem in 2012, as injuries, particularly up top, cut into his ability to play his preferred formation and forced him to shift lineups in order to adjust.
The Rapids TD said last week that he’s actively seeking more players — defense and striker are priorities — to allow Pareja to be able to deal with injuries and maintain his tactics.
“Ultimately, our philosophy is about keeping possession of the ball and being creative and being bold going forward,” Bravo said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re playing a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3, that’s how we want to play. We want to press people when it’s appropriate. We’ll look to create some flexibility within the roster and bring in players.”
But beyond depth, Bravo also said there are things Pareja has to adapt to as a coach in order for the 4-3-3 to work better in 2013.
“That’s a learning curve for Oscar, understanding that [you need depth to play a 4-3-3],” Bravo said. “It’s understanding your personnel and trying to fit that personnel into a team that’s going to help you win games. ”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.