For those of us still learning the ins and outs of the game, nothing is more confusing than tactics - except maybe the offsides rules, mind blown just thinking about it. But learning the tactics of soccer is also one of the most gratifying parts of your evolution as a fan.
The thing that has frustrated many Cosmos fans since the reemergence of the team has been the tendency of opposing NASL teams to "park the bus" during games. Parking the bus is the term used by fans to describe the tactic of playing defensively to the detriment of your offensive prospects. Generally, this takes the form of having most if not all players in and around the box so that these players can defend the goal area and thus making it difficult for the other team to score.
This tactic is used by teams when facing a stronger team, especially one with stronger attacking players, or when in the lead and trying to preserve the win. This might seem familiar to Cosmos' fans - because it is annoyingly used against the boys in green nearly every week of the NASL schedule. After the weekly appearance of the bus at Cosmos' games it became necessary to look into it a little more closely in hopes of understanding the best response.
The best ways to answer this defensive tactic are two fold. Firstly, attack the box relentlessly with the goal of causing chaos in that area in front the goalie. Although this sounds a little haphazard, the key is to remember that just getting clean shots on goal when so many defensive players are in that area is incredibly difficulty. But, dumping the ball in the area with so many players can also cause chaos that might end up with the ball in the back of the net. In a manner, this appears to have been how the Cosmos scored their two goals against the RailHawks earlier this year in Carolina. Both were the result of continued and relentless shots in the box - the first goal in particular seemed to benefit from confusion in the box when neither the goalie nor any of the players near him could get to the ball as it trickled in right past them.
The other tactical adjustment needed in this situation is something Cosmos' fans are very familiar seeing, but may not recognize it at first as a response to the "bus" - namely using defenders to bring the ball up and become part of the attack. Ayoze is the player that most comes to mind because he always seems to be in on the attack, but really all the Cosmos defenders do it to varying degrees. The reason for this is that by bringing in the defenders it frees up more of the midfielders and forwards to fill in the area in and around the box (and contributing and helping with the chaos in the box). The other benefit of this maneuver is that it forces some of the defenders in the box to come out and address the attacking defenders. The reason is that the defending team can't just sit back and let the defenders on the other team punch shots into the box over and over.
And this is why the Cosmos have a tendency to bring their back line so far forward (I think). It seems that almost every NASL game is one where the Cosmos are trying to win and the other team is trying to tie - even if it is 0-0. This isn't true every game, it just seems that way. Tonight the Indy 11 got the early lead and played from back the rest of the game. Now, the trickiest thing about this strategy and the counter maneuver of bringing up your defenders is that it opens you up to the counterattack. And tonight was a great example of this. Although the Indy 11 were playing back, they were constantly looking for the counterattack - with the defenders up front, it gives the other team an opportunity for, the equivalent of, a "fast break" with a well timed pass to a streaking forward moving behind the last line of defenders. Tonight the Indy 11 had multiple counter attacks, fortunately - thanks largely to Jimmy Maurer - non were converted. Nonetheless it seemed like a textbook example of the counter attacking opportunities presented to teams"parking the bus."
It really is brilliant to learn about the chess game that is the tactics of a soccer game. The best way to avoid this scenario with the bus entirely? - be the first to score, and do it very early in the game, that's it.
Appreciate any learned observations or critiques as this is something new to some fans who would appreciate an informed perspective. As always, thanks in advance for any comments.