Cosmos head coach Giovanni Saverese confirmed this morning that Croatian attacker Niko Kranjčar will be out 4-6 weeks with what he described as a “pulled quad”. Gio indicated that Niko’s situation was a “disappointing” one, and that the midfielder would be participating in therapy away from the team and with other doctors that both he and the club know and trust. Gio also indicated that the club is not actively looking to replace either Niko or Michael Lahoud at this time.
Niko’s injury and rumored potential move to Rangers begs the question: how will the Cosmos look to fill the former Tottenham man’s place in the midfield?
Here are three possible alternatives.
This situation sees Ruben Bover move directly into Niko’s spot in the normal 4-1-4-1 formation. However, with Bover’s ability to roam and comfort tracking back to defend, this situation can look more like a 4-2-3-1 at times, with Bover contributing in the build up of play deep with Danny Szetela. Also, Bover and Juan Arango provided a great amount of chemistry during their first pairing together in the midfield. The young Spaniard has a great positional sense, and knows precisely when to time his runs in accordance with the play developing behind or ahead of him in the midfield. Arango was criticized last year by Mike Petke for having his hunger for the ball and energy fail him in a tactical positioning sense, but this year he has let his soccer IQ shine. In the second goal against Tampa Bay, both Bover’s strong run at the back line and Arango’s passing accuracy and vision combined for the winning goal against the Cosmos’ Florida rivals. This is a pairing that I think Gio Saverese will strongly consider before Saturday’s game against Rayo, especially since it will be extremely difficult leave an increasingly healthy Ruben Bover out of the starting XI not only Saturday, but for the rest of the season.
Another option for Niko’s spot in the lineup is Andres Flores. The Salvadorian attacker has had difficulty finding minutes in a clogged Cosmos midfield. He earned most of his field time this season during the Cosmos 3-0 win over Miami, when Kranjčar was also injured. Flores, as usual, was a solid cog in the attacking midfield. Kranjčar’s injury could be an opportunity for Flores to flex his form and confidence ahead of El Salvador’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Mexico in September. Flores’ ability to comfortably drift wide and pick up passes is a key asset, and it gives Arango more space to pull the strings in the middle. I’m not sure if he played as well in Miami as Bover did against Tampa Bay, but this is a much more like-for-like swap in the midfield for the Cosmos. In addition to Flores for Niko, I bring in Bover in for Sebastian Guenzatti on the right hand side. Not only is Bover in good form, but having two midfielders that are comfortable wide, centrally, and tracking back both on the same side of the pitch is invaluable to any club. This gives the Cosmos tactical leniency within the match, and gives the attack a wider range of options while going after Rayo OKC’s back line on Saturday.
I’m completely aware this lineup can’t be used until after Yasmani Duk returns from Copa America duty, but Gio’s use of two forwards against Eibar (and the subsequent goal) leads me to believe the Cosmos manager is thinking a few months down the road. The Cosmos have never been much of a two-forward team, but the bull-in-a-china shop attitude of Duk and the speed, work rate, and technical ability of Jairo Arrieta complement each other well. This also clears up the midfield to let Arango pull the strings centrally without a partner, something I think might even work better than a two-CAM set. Yes, Arango can be caught too high and could need constant cover from the CDM that sits in behind him, but with that space the Venezuelan could show his true brilliance. This is not to say a two-CAM set couldn’t work for the Cosmos, but I for one would be really intrigued to see what Arango (or even Niko when he returns) could do all by themselves in that part of the park.
Do you agree with these formations? See something I’m missing? Hate what I did? Love it? Let us know!
I’m intrigued to see a single CAM, just as Arango seems to be hitting top gear. I’m not happy about the midseason break that will probably slow him down, but yes, I’d be intrigued to see Steve’s second scenario used. I think Flores and Bover may be better options than Seba and we still keep the width that has served us well. I think this is best employed against some of the stronger, tactical teams like Minnesota.
My single change would probably be to bring in Duk, upon his return for the single forward scenario. However, against teams that do not really have that offensive prowess (Ottawa, Miami), I’d love to see us roll out that third scenario and overpower them with the distinct play of our two forwards.