The recent Convey thread got me to thinking about the central midfield and how it's changed over the course of this season and I realized how important that change was. Here's the history as I see it: 1) At the beginning of the year the central midfield consisted of Olsen, Kovalenko and Carroll. The big change that Nowak made to have that happen was moving Olsen to the middle as opposed to moving Convey there. By having Olsen, Dema, and Brian in the middle a big thing happened: - Primary offensive creativity on the team was moved from the central midfield (the traditional place for such on most soccer teams) and moved to a forward and a winger (Moreno and Convey). Instead, the central midfield became more complimentary and became devoted more to maintaining possession and stealing the ball back from the opposition. There were a couple of reasons for this. First Olsen and The Demanator are at heart two-way players. They have also been complimentary players on offense throughout their careers. Also Carroll was very much having an on-the-job learning experience at d-mid and so that inclined the other two to focus more on defense first. The upshot of this that while for periods the team looked like, as Eric Wynalda said several times, the best looking team in MLS, goals were hard to come by. (The goal difficulty was aggravated also by Eskandarian, like Carroll, still feeling his way along as the true #9 on the team.) So this was pretty much the MO of the team for the first half of the season, or until Convey left for Reading. (Again, this is NOT a slam Bobby thread. This world we live in is NOT actually Bobby's world and we are all just role players in it.) And of course when Bobby went on Nats leave the team suffered stylistically if not always results-wise. But then Convey left and Gomez eventually was hired. But the change wasn't that simplistic. Several other things happened and they started happening before Gomez started with the team. The first two changes were Nowak began starting Adu as the a-mid and he benched Carroll for a couple of games. Carroll was struggling in learning the d-mid role so in sitting him Nowak in effect re-emphasised the defensive roles of Olsen and Kovalenko. But then he brought in Adu as an a-mid to balance things out. This paid immediate dividends on offense because it put a new offensive creator very close to to main old one (Moreno), much closer than Convey, the older secondary offensive creator, was. Adu also had the advantage over Convey in that he had fewer defensive responsibilities than Convey had and so he could help Moreno more. Also having the focus of the offense move to the middle of the field allowed Nowak to get Gros (Convey's nominal replacement on the wing) to work on his defensive skills- which IMO have really improved over the last month. By having Gros thinking defense first, this took pressure off the d-mid and defense and is to me a big reason why our defense has improved this past month. Yes, getting Nellie back helped, but having Gros play defense first helped Petke immensely, allowing him to play his game better. I ask folks to look back at the last regular season DCU-metro game in the swamp with EZ in Nellie's role and how well we stopped that team. It's the team defense that's improved that makes me feel okay about missing Nelsen for the next game. The next step was the insertion of Gomez for Adu which was essentially a tactical upgrade rather than a strategic one. The offense is a little better with Gomez as a-mid rather than Adu. Next came a two-pronged step, though also tactical rather than strategic: The insertion of Carroll back at d-mid and moving Kovalenko over to right wing, benching Gros as the normal starter when everyone's available. Gros here loses out to Dema like Adu loses out to Gomez- the older vet is a bit smarter than the rook this year. I also guess that Nowak nows that Dema can get more into the attack from the wing than Gros can. (Now that Gros is playing defense first notice how rarely he's making those endline dashes that we saw so much of early in the season. Thus we now have the team. In short Nowak changed the offensive strategy of the team halfway through the year by inserting an a-mid.