The idea that it may be harder to play 10 men against 11 isn't true, but that doesn't mean all is lost when an ejection happens. The fact there are more red cards in modern football means it is easier to have teams with a man sent off. Former Roma manager Nils Liedholm often said that, "You can win even with 10 men as long as you play well."
Both José Mourinho and Arsène Wenger said that they spent time in training playing with 10 men. Being outnumbered is a difficult situation but not an impossible one if you utilize the right tactics. In the era of zonal marking, a team going a man down can still be able to cover a defined area. So playing a man down is not an automatic loss, especially today. Mourinho's Inter produced one of the best defensive performances after going down to ten men against Barcelona in the second leg of 2010 Champions League semi-finals.
When a team picks up a red card, they have to be well prepared to face this situation. This is what Chivas USA did on Sunday against the Vancouver Whitecaps, focusing on ball retention and precise attacks.
There is not an ideal formation when playing with 10 men, but Wilmer Cabrera went back to basics to solve the problem after midfielder Agustin Pelletieri was sent off following a hard tackle on Pedro Morales. He stayed with his usual defensive base of a back four, and asked rookie Thomas McNamara to play as a de facto holding midfielder in the way to stabilize his midfield switching his side in a 4-4-1 shape.
By the way, Cabrera's change was unusual as he didn't sacrifice a forward to insert another midfielder. Instead, he brought McNamara back in the centre to play alongside Oswaldo Minda while Leandro Barrera and Mauro Rosales remained out wide supporting Erick Torres. And McNamara did it excellently. With a man down, Cabrera opted to stay with two banks of four and the defence looked solid despite being a man fewer but the team didn't lose its offensive look as Barrera, Rosales, McNamara and Torres all remained on the field ready to storm forward. They didn't give the ball away, producing a purely defensive effort.
In all, against Vancouver Chivas USA remained as a system as every player tried to do something good. The strength of Cabrera's decision was underlined by the fact that Chivas USA took the initiative and had other scoring chances to extend the advantage. Though the ultimate result was a draw, it was the right approach.
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