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Inside Opta: Formational Battle

Through 32 of 34 games, the Houston Dynamo’s season can be lumped pretty easily into two sections: 17 games lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, and 15 played in a 4-4-3. The fairly even sample sizes allows us to compare the Dynamo’s performances in the two systems as well as analyze the styles in each, and how they may be used in the final two games and potentially the MLS playoffs.

More important than any other statistic is record, and here is found the first difference. In the 4-4-2, the Dynamo have compiled 24 points with a 6-5-6 record, an average of 1.41 points per game. In the 4-3-3, the Dynamo have 26 points with a 7-3-5 record, an average of 1.73 points per game.

By that measure, it would seem that the 4-3-3 has been the best option for the Dynamo. It looks that way from most other measures, as well. The Dynamo have held about two percent more possession per game in the 4-3-3, had six percent better passing accuracy and held opposing teams to ten less goals than in the 4-4-2.

The one area that the statistics point in favor of the 4-4-2 is creating chances on the offensive side. The Dynamo create about one more chance from open play per game in that formation, and take about 1.5 more shots.

Although the results seem to favor using the 4-3-3 formation, one must take into account that fact that the Dynamo's squad in October is not the same one that took the field in July. Over the past two matches, Kinnear has paired Ricardo Clark with Adam Moffat in the midfield, looking to lock down the center of the park and making life more difficult for opposing playmakers. In addition, Cam Weaver’s run of form in the MLS Reserve League and CONCACAF Champions League has earned him more minutes in MLS matches, where he is more suited in a two-striker system.

Does this mean that this is the last we’ll see of the 4-3-3 from the Dynamo this year? A lot depends on how well the team performs in their final two matches of the regular season, but there’s always a chance it could reappear in the playoffs. Remember, eight of the 15 matches the Dynamo played in the 4-3-3 came against teams they could potentially face in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and Kinnear may see a favorable matchup against those teams using a 4-3-3 formation.