Current Depth Chart:
1- Marco Donadel
2- Patrice Bernier
3- Calum Mallace
4- Nigel Reo-Coker
5- Eric Alexander
6- Kyle Bekker
The exact order of the depth chart might be debatable, but this is essentially accurate. An ideal central midfield in most modern formations should include three players: a holding midfielder (known as a #6), a box-to-box midfielder (known as a #8) who may line up as a holding midfielder, and an attacking midfielder (known as a #10). What the Impact had on display last season was two #6's and Ignacio Piatti on top of them. Typically we saw Donadel as the true #6 and Calum Mallace attempting to bridge the gap between Donadel and Piatti. Then that morphed into Nigel Reo-Coker as the #8 connecting Donadel to Patrice Bernier under Mauro Biello.
Both systems were effective but imperfect. And unlike the other positions we've discussed thus far, the Impact might have to look for some front-end talent here instead of depth. Donadel found his groove but missed games due to suspension - though he seems to have learned how to avoid that. Reo-Coker is aging and comes at a heavy cap hit relative to his use.
And we all love Patrice Bernier who played admirably at the end of the year under Biello, but how sustainable is that kind of play for a player that age over the length of an entire MLS season that includes many travel miles? Calum Mallace continues to improve and his age and cap hit are both extremely manageable. He may run more kilometers in one game than I do all year.
Recommendation: On a roster that contends for the MLS Cup, Donadel can be your #6 but Bernier/Reo-Coker/Mallace probably can't be your #8 on a 90-minute basis. Find a way to remove Reo-Coker's salary from the cap and use the extra room to invest in the central-attacking midfield role. Then add an MLS-caliber box-to-box midfielder similar in quality to Eric Alexander but who is slightly more dynamic and who can either start or come in off the bench for Bernier/Mallace. This move may only make sense on the cap if Alexander is also removed from the roster.