Why the Deltas Switch to a 3-5-2 Utilizes the Best of Every Player

Photo Credit: @theprojectfc

In the final game of the Spring season, the Deltas made a switch to a formation that has been slowly taking over the soccer world. Teams like Juventus and Chelsea have ridden the 3-5-2 system to league tittles in the past season. The Deltas’ coach, Marc Dos Santos, isn’t making the switch to keep up with the trends; he’s making the switch because it utilizes almost every player on the team in a better way than his previous use of the 4-1-4-1 system.

“I think the 7-0 in Miami really put us aware of a couple of things, and one of those things is the fact of maximizing the best qualities of everyone we have. And I think that’s what you have to do as a coach. You can’t be stubborn if there is a system you like,” said Dos Santos after the 2-1 win against the New York Cosmos, the 3rd straight game in which he used the 3-5-2.

When the Deltas lost Cristian Portilla for the season to an ACL injury it further pushed the need for the change in formation, as he was the man brought in to specifically play the defensive midfield in Dos Santos’ 4-1-4-1 system. “Portilla is impossible to replace. He’s a player with certain qualities that we don’t have,” said Dos Santos about his starting midfielder.

Analysis of the tactics with the new 3-5-2 system

The Back 3

The key to this formation is having strong defenders in the back 3 who are good with the ball at their feet and are not just looking to clear the ball long each time. For starters, when Nana Attakora is back, he is the ideal center back for a 3 at the back formation. He leads the team in clearances, and is a great organizer of a strong back line. Patrick Hopkins has looked comfortable there as well in the last few games.

This formation provides a player like Reiner Ferreira more help behind him, as he is good with the ball at his feet, but sometimes gets caught losing a runner off his back shoulder. It also allows Reiner to use his skill on the ball to help dictate play and hold possession.

This change in formation puts Ouimette on the other side of Attakora. He is well suited for this position as he is one of the many that I call “tweener players.” He is not a right back who can get forward and provide service into the box, but he is also not the most powerful center back to play with just 2 at the back.

The Wing Backs

This is where I think the change in formation truly utilizes the best of a few of the Deltas’ players. Starting on the right side, Jackson is as dangerous as any right-sided player in the League. When the Deltas played 4 at the back it took away the ability of Jackson to get forward and help create chances. He never looked comfortable as a winger either. I feel the wing back role was created for a player like Jackson.

On the left side, this formation is tailor made for Maxim Tissot. When Tissot first arrived, I wasn’t sure where he was going to play. He has a great left foot and is good on the ball, but lacks some true defensive qualities as a left back, and also lacks some finishing qualities as a left winger. His natural abilities also make him a great wing back.

This formation will also be beneficial to Kenny Teijsse who is similar to Tissot in the fact that he is really good on the ball. In this formation, he can better utilize some of his abilities farther up the field.

The Midfield

The loss of Portilla put a big hole in the midfield of the Deltas as there is no like-for-like replacement for Portilla. However, having 3 strong defenders behind the midfield helps override this problem. As well, many of the Deltas’ midfielders are more box-to-box style players, like Gibson, Stephens and Jordan. The new formation allows Dos Santos to use 2 of them, knowing that they have 3 defenders behind to help, and that they don’t need a true defensive midfielder.

In the attacking midfield, the switch to the 3-5-2 formation allows for the potential to use both Kyle Bekker and Dagoberto at the same time underneath Heinemann, one as the attacking mid and the other as a second striker. Having two creative players on the field at the same time behind the striker is made possible by this formation change.

The Forwards

In the attacking roles, the formation helps the Deltas’ main target striker, Tommy Heinemann, who seems to function better with another forward alongside of him. Whether that’s Danny Cruz or Pablo Dyego or a combination of Bekker and Dagoberto remains to be seen. But this is what a striker like Heinemann needs to open him up.


I don’t think that there is a single player on the Deltas’ roster who doesn’t benefit from this switch in formation. The 3-5-2 system seems to be built for exactly the players that the Deltas have.

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