TORONTO – So Toronto FC manager Aron Winter isn’t married to the 4-3-3 formation after all.
The Dutchman, who has made the 4-3-3 lineup a staple of his first season at the helm of Toronto FC, surprised both Real Salt Lake and his own team by switching to a 3-4-3 on Saturday night, which may have proven to be the key in securing a 1-0 win at BMO Field.
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“The thing that I want in the future when rebuilding is when an opponent is playing like Real Salt Lake is that you can play also 3-4-3 like we did today,” Winter told reporters after the match. “I have to give a big compliment to the team because we have done very well.
“If you watched the whole game and the possession we had with the ball, against a very good opponent, everyone is forgetting that Salt Lake is good. I think that is a big compliment for the guys that you are watching also that every game there is progression and improvement.”
Toronto FC players confessed that they didn’t use the 3-4-3 formation in training this week and they found out they were playing the new system on gameday.
“We’ve never played this. It’s like it came out of the blue,” goalkeeper Milos Kocic said of the 3-4-3 formation. “The coaches did a great job organizing us putting the players in the right positions. Obviously they’ve seen Real Salt Lake play many times and they know how they play.”
Winter explained that he made the tactical shift because of Real Salt Lake’s tendency to play with two high strikers. So he opted to use two man markers in the back – Richard Eckersley and Andy Iro – while leaving designated player Torsten Frings in a free role between the two.
“We spoke with [Frings] and he said he can play in that role,” Winter said. “By having a player like Torsten between two defenders -- and he has done it very well -- it’s almost much easier for the midfielders and the back line to do what they have to do.”
Frings, with injured goalkeeper Stefan Frei translating, said he had never played the position before but was willing to give it a go.
“Having a guy like Torsten, an experienced guy like him, leading the defense it’s unbelievable,” said Kocic, who made his first start of the season in place of Frei. “We are very fortunate to have a player like that.”