Reflections from Canada’s loss to Croatia – 2022 World Cup

After taking a few days to reflect on Canada's disappointing loss against Croatia, I have been able to take away many positives from the performance. Kamal Miller won't get much in the way of praise after being hung out to dry at the end of the game, but he had another brilliant performance at the back. Alphonso Davies meanwhile bagged the nation's first goal at a Men's World Cup inside just two minutes of action, waking my neighbours up as I yelled of joy. But in dissecting the game further, it's clear to see that Croatia operated at a higher level, with their fanciful one-touch triangulations causing chaos for Canada every time they had the ball. For what feels like the first time ever, a few things will need to drastically change from a tactical standpoint heading into the next fixture from John Herdman's team. Here are my reflections on Canada's 4-1 defeat to Croatia.

Kamal Miller – Player Analysis

Canadian footballers operating in the MLS have been notoriously underrated over the years, but now with the nation putting themselves on the world stage, clubs across the globe should start to pay more attention to our greatest players. One of those who has announced himself on the grandest stage is CF Montreal's Kamal Miller. Miller's been arguably Canada's best defender across the two opening group stage matches at the 2022 World Cup, serving as a nice compliment to his defensive partner Steven Vitoria at the back. With a range of qualities on and off the ball, Miller could easily be playing for a club in Europe's top five leagues already. So with that, we aim to strengthen Miller's case for a move across the pond.

Explaining the Tempo Setter – Player Role Analysis

The 'Tempo Setter' is a unique player type to our system, taking into account the possession-based players that operate in a 'number 8' position, and thrive when given the ball in the half-spaces. Youri Tielemans, Christian Eriksen and Jordan Henderson feature as some of the best within the role from an emblematic perspective, perfectly exuding the cucumber coolness required. But the likes of Thiago and Tchouaméni also stake a claim despite their extreme exceptionalities on the ball, due to the high influence they present in keeping the game moving along from a withdrawn position. Beyond the streamlined skill of Thiago, they tend not to be the flashiest of players in their teams. But 'Tempo Setters' are key to setting the tone of a football match, and conducting the orchestra from start to finish. Quite simply, without their class and composure in possession, the whole entire musical production could crumble.

Explaining the Deep-Lying Playmaker – Player Role Analysis

The 'Deep-Lying Playmaker' is one of the already attributed player types that we have adopted within our system. Also known by its Italian name 'Regista', the 'DLP' is tasked with setting the tempo of the match from build up to progression, all the way to creation. They sit in front of the defensive line as an 'Anchor', but hold a more offensive, progressive and possession-oriented role than the other two 'number 6' types within our 'Anchor' persona. Their role is in both helping create space between the lines, and then breaking lines, recycling play, or even changing the point of attack upon receiving the ball, so that their team can advance up the pitch, beat an opposition's press and seek spaces closer to goal.

Coaching the 3-1-3-1 (9v9)

When deployed correctly, the 3-1-3-1 can be one of the most fluid, flexible and fantastic 9v9 formations. Like anything in the beautiful game, team tactics, style of play and intricacies can only evolve within the realms of a team's own unique characteristics (including players involved, level of opposition, coaching preferences, and more). But if I had my pick of the litter within my squad, this is how I would deploy the 3-1-3-1 formation at the 9v9 level.

Explaining the Ball-Playing-Centre-Half – Player Role Analysis

As the name suggests, a 'Ball-Playing-Centre-Half' is a centre-back that excels in possession of the ball, from passing to long passing to carrying to dribbling. They can simultaneously exist as 'Sweepers' or 'Stoppers', providing another interesting asterisk to the role not found in many other positions. Unlike say a fullback or goalkeeper where we have created clearly defined separations and almost polarizations on a style scale, 'Ball-Playing-Centre-Halves' can also be 'Stoppers' or 'Sweepers'.

Washington Spirit 1-1 Chicago Red Stars – Match Analysis

As often happens in a tightly contested affair, Washington Spirit's encounter with the Chicago Red Stars saw one team outperform the other in the attacking third, and the other come out in wonderfully matching that intensity in the defensive third. Washington should have claimed victory, having hit the bar twice and dominating much of the play, but Chicago held their own, accumulating chances to put the game to bed themselves.

Why there’s an abnormal amount of centre-backs taking set-pieces in the NWSL

In quite fantastic fashion, there is an abnormal representation of centre-halves on set-piece duties. Normally associated with banging in the goals from free kicks and corners, several NWSL teams instead have one of their centre-backs as a key taker of set-pieces. This begs the question we should always be asking in analysis - and that is...why?

How Cavalry’s staggered shape stunned Edmonton – Match Analysis

The Cavs started the season in a 3-4-2-1 formation, suffering two embarrassing losses to York and Atletico, and a stagnant draw against Forge. After realizing the slow-moving car wasn't quite motoring the way he wanted it to, even despite the gas pedal being pressed, Wheeldon Jr. was right to identify a new vehicle. Now in a flexible 4-4-2 shape, Cavalry have been utterly dominant in both of their matches since, both in and out of possession. On this particular occasion, they completely stunted Edmonton's progress going forward, and massively exploited space in exactly the right areas through staggering their personnel across the pitch. Here is a quick tactical analysis of Cavalry's commanding 3-0 win over FC Edmonton.

The simple task anyone can do to improve their tactical knowledge

As coaches, analysts, players, fans, and football obsessed individuals, we all want to grow our tactical understanding of the game. In fact, it's one of the top five questions I get thrown my way on social media or email (links at the end of the article), where people either want to know how I developed my degree of tactical knowledge, or want to know how they too can take their tactical and analytical understanding to the next level. Here is a structured process that you can follow to develop your own tactical knowledge, and continuously learn about the game on repeat.

The myth of Nick Pope’s ‘poor’ distribution

Leading up to both the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 (which famously took place in 2021), a common commentary surrounded Nick Pope, and the potential reasons for Southgate's favouritsm toward Jordan Pickford. "Pope's distribution isn't as good," was said on repeat, almost as though all the pundits of the English game together as one big monster blob out to slight Nick Pope and find justifications for something that few were willing to admit made little sense. Despite Nick Pope's heroics at Burnley for the past five years, and the potential that he will keep them in the Premier League almost single-handedly for another season, Pickford remains England's firm number one.

How coaches can develop their tactical and analytical understanding of the game

One of the most common questions thrown my way is the typical - "How do you know what you know?" or "How did you develop your tactical craft?". Well, I finally have an answer for you.

Finding the balance between being fun and assertive in coaching (+ more Q&A)

In this special edition Spin The Ball Q&A, Rhys Desmond talks about how to find the balance between being fun and assertive in coaching, how to be more enthusiastic for your players, and gives his thoughts on the CONCACAF Champions League and Man City vs. Tottenham this weekend. Be sure to check out @mastermindsite on social media and everything we have going on at themastermindsite.com to never miss an update.