In an effort to create more offense and maximize his players' potential last year, Mauro Biello transitioned IMFC's formation from a 4-2-3-1 into a 4-3-3.By doing this, Biello essentially eliminated the centre attacking midfield (CAM) position, thus moving Ignacio Piatti to the left side. In place of the CAM and two holding midfielders, Impact fans saw three central midfielders (usually Marco Donadel, Patrice Bernier, and Calum Mallace/Nigel Reo-Coker) who would take a flat, horizontal position across the field when attacking (i.e. left/centre/right).
When defending, the central midfielders were expected to step slightly toward the middle of the field, taking an "inside shade" on oncoming attackers. To compliment this, the left and right attacking wingers are expected to do some amount of back-checking.
In doing this, Biello managed a few things. First, the move to a 4-3-3 made it so that Piatti could play an offensive role on the left side of the field where he makes the biggest impact on the game. Second, he altogether eliminated the CAM position, therefore not forcing any other players into that difficult and pressure-heavy position where they were less likely to succeed. Third, he created an extra spot in the centre of the field, thus allowing for Patrice Bernier to get more minutes, which he was rewarded for when Bernier proved he still had gas left in the tank. And finally, he gave Didier Drogba more offensive support.
There was no reason to think that the Impact were going to switch back to the 4-2-3-1 that saw them succeed in CONCACAF but sputter in the MLS regular season.
Until they traded for Harry Shipp.
In Shipp, the Impact now have a young, talented, American, centre attacking midfielder. Moreover, Shipp has proven to be one of the lone bright spots on a Chicago Fire team that has otherwise disappointed over the past two seasons. Shipp's numbers are considerable for a non-forward and can likely be maintained if not improved if put in the right position to succeed by his coach.
Shipp felt most comfortable and produced the most when he was used by the Fire as a CAM. He was often forced, however, into a wide position where he was not as productive. This led to frustration both for Shipp and for the Fire.
Expect Biello to give Shipp the chance to start the season as the team's starting CAM in a 4-2-3-1.
Expect him to do this because Shipp is a natural and quality CAM. The Impact would not have made the trade if their intentions were to use Shipp as inefficiently as the Fire were. In addition, the move allows Piatti to finally have a permanent and set home on the left side of the field.
Although Piatti played admirably as a CAM, he was transitioned there to suit the needs of the team at the time. Shipp can now fill that role better than anyone else on the roster. De facto, the Shipp trade means the Impact also upgraded the left side of their midfield.
So the opening day formation might look something like this, injuries (and turf) notwithstanding:
Piatti Shipp Romero
Oyongo Ciman Cabrera Toia
Add to this a bunch of options coming in at right wing off the bench and some decent depth at the holding midfielders position.
Biello has proven in the past that he is adaptable and would rather create a formation best suited to his players rather than try to create players that are best suited to a formation.
Where do you think Harry Shipp fits in to the Impact's on-field tactics?