No Shea, Same Shape?

Over the past few months a lot more people in Orlando have learned the significance of the numeric sequence: 4-2-3-1. It describes Coach Adrian Heath's preferred formation and alignment--"shape" in soccer parlance--for the squad.

An integral part of nearly every match so far this season has been Brek Shea, who has logged more minutes on the pitch than just about any player on the squad between his appearances with Orlando City and his duty with the US Men's National Team. Shea started the year in the defensive back 4, but after the season-ending injury to Kevin Molino, he was moved up to midfield, where he has performed very well as a tandem with our captain, Kaka. The lanky blond Texan and the Brazilian with the impish grin have been instrumental in building attacks and maintaining possessions for the team as the younger players have started to gel and come into their own.

But with Shea out, it's interesting to speculate on whom Coach Heath will choose to replace him. While Carlos Rivas has appeared inconsistently due to injuries this season, Orlando City news and tactics blog The Mane Land suggests he's one of the most obvious replacements for Shea because of his speed on the edge. The logic is sound, and a quick review of MLS statistics on the Fox Sports Networks site shows Rivas has appeared in 9 of the club's 12 games so far for a total of 245 minutes.

But I'm wondering how likely it is that Adrian Heath throws the fans (and the opponent) something of a curve ball and changes the shape a bit. Martin Paterson has finally recovered enough from his injury that kept him out of the lineup at the beginning of the season, and I just wonder if Coach might not forego the routine 4-2-3-1 for a 4-2-2-2, and put Paterson up at the pointy end with Cyle Larin. 

Long-time soccer fans may have a hundred reasons why this is a bad idea, and they may be right. But I remember that the last time we faced Columbus the result was a 3 - nil loss, and I for one would like to see us put a lot more goals on the board and shove the ball down their throats until they choke on it. Paterson has to be itching to start a match, and doing something a little unexpected might just be disruptive enough to make Kei Kamara worry more about defending than trying to add to his league-leading individual goal total (his count now stands at 11 -- cue the Spinal Tap video) tonight.

What do you think? Who will replace Shea on the pitch, and will Heath play his traditional shape for the squad or will he shake things up a bit?