In predicting the lineup, few would have ventured playing Kyle Beckerman and Yordany Alvarez alongside each other as a distinctly possible option. Ever the man with a plan, Jason Kreis opted for surprise over, well, no surprise.
The choice involved in playing Beckerman and Alvarez together was rendered particularly interesting by two things: Alvarez had played at the side of the diamond in the past, and it must be said, he hardly impressed during those moments; and Beckerman has been a rock in the deep-lying spot, having not played on the side since 2008 or so.
Surprisingly to some, it worked very well. Our captain has shown a more attacking bent this season than in the past, and that he works in the side of the diamond should come as no real surprise. He's a flexible, dynamic sort of player. The question then becomes one of coordination and interaction and less about positional sense. Unsurprisingly, both traded spots with regularity, and Alvarez was as often on the left side of the diamond as he was at the base.
That rotation is an extension of the rotation we've already seen this season in the midfield through all parts — and that's not excluding Javier Morales, who, at times, has popped up at the base of the diamond. Clearly, each player that spends time in a position brings a different set of characteristics. It brings to the side an ability to operate dynamically and switch focus on-the-fly — for example, when Beckerman is further up the pitch and Morales is deeper, an opportunity to send a long pass in emerges; when it's reversed, play flows in a decidedly different manner.
Permutations, not partnerships
It comes down not to partnerships — this wasn't about Yordany Alvarez and Kyle Beckerman together — but to permutations of the larger whole. The permutations allowed by including two nominally defensive midfielders allow for important tactical variety. While finishing was again an issue, the midfield controlled the game.
Interestingly, the permutations allowed for with two nominally attacking midfielders and two nominally defensive midfielders produced some tactical moments we've not seen this group produce. When Velasquez and Morales went wide, Beckerman and Alvarez played centrally and filled the distribution role; when Morales dropped deep to pick up possession, Velasquez hopped up top to fill the space thusly vacated. When Ned Grabavoy came into the match, he simply popped up everywhere to maintain possession, freeing other midfielders for creative movement.