Impact happy to continue tinkering with midfield setup

MONTREAL – By their own accounts, Impact head coach Marco Schällibaum wants to play four at the back while star forward Marco Di Vaio wants to play alone up front. Now, the Swiss tactician and his staff just need to figure out how to set up the five players in between.

After their switch to 4-2-3-1 last May, Montreal barely deviated from the triangular shape they’d established in the center of the park. Patrice Bernier and Collen Warner protected the Impact’s sometimes leaky defense and took turns joining Felipe in more forward positions. The team was transformed by the tactical switch and promptly turned Stade Saputo into something of a fortress, finishing 2012 with a 10-4-3 home record.

Over the course of the current training camp, however, scrimmages have sometimes been peppered with 4-1-4-1 seeds, and the technical staff is considering inverting the 2012 triangle.

“We’re still experimenting, though,” assistant coach Mauro Biello told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week. “We tried Hassoun [Camara] as a lone defensive mid, we tried Warner with a bank of four mids in front of him, and we’ll keep experimenting to see what the best fit is.”

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A possible compromise could be to play one defensive midfielder at home and two away, a solution Biello is keen on. Nine goals and eight assists last season would make Patrice Bernier a natural choice to step out of that line of two defensive mids, but it is not a given, said Biello.

“With his great qualities, he could play in front of the D,” Biello said. “But other players can come into play. It’s a puzzle, and we’ll put the pieces together.”

For now, the experiment will soon move to Orlando, where the Impact are set to face Sporting Kansas City as the Disney Pro Soccer Classic kicks off on Saturday. Biello pointed out that the staff is still undecided on the midfield’s shape against SKC, but they still wish they were already in Florida, getting to work on some more details.

“Most training sessions have been set up in order to get the players in the middle of the field, playing quick, two-touch soccer,” Biello explained. “In Orlando, we’ll start working on getting the side backs to join the attack, which is very important.”