Nearly every single soccer team I have ever played for used one standard formation -- the 4-4-2. The 4-4-2, which the Fire used for the majority of last season, is quite possibly the most common formation in the whole sport. And really, it's no wonder that it is so popular. It's simple, allows for a solid balance between attacking and defense and allows managers to easily interchange players. It's a safe move for a manager to implement and for teams with little time spent training together -- like a youth team -- it's probably the most effective.
But can something as simple as the 4-4-2 work for a professional team like the Fire? Well, yes. But the real question is will that formation allow the Fire to best fulfill their potential on the field in 2010? Well, no. Given the Fire's personnel -- and their new commitment to playing attacking, free-flowing soccer -- the team is far better suited to playing in something like a 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 than a 4-4-2. A formation like a 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 would most easily allow the Fire to build up comprehensively through quick passing through the midfield/forwards -- something that they've been expressing their desire to do all offseason.
Personally, I prefer the 4-3-3 to the 3-5-2 (and yes, I know I bashed any formation with a three man backline last week. That was probably a bit rash...). If done correctly, the 4-3-3 provides solid defensive cover both up the middle and on the wings, allows the forwards to play with the ball at their feet, and gives midfielders readily available options to distribute up the middle and to the wings.
If the Fire is to use a 4-3-3 in 2010, it could look a little something like this...
Pause would be in his familiar role of center defensive midfielder, while Thorrington and Pappa would be responsible for distributing to the three forwards and making runs at defenders. I have Pappa paired with John on the left and Thorrington and Nyarko on the right because their ability to play on the wing nicely complements Thorrington and John's tendency to play a more central role. McBride would play in the middle, where he could put his skills as a target forward -- holding the ball up and winning headers -- to excellent use. The back four's duties wouldn't really change much from last year in this formation. However, the outside backs (in this case Tim Ward and Krzysztof Krol) would need to be slightly more alert to runs down the wing.
I've offered my take. For now, I'm all about the 4-3-3. But I'm interested in seeing what your formation preference is. So, with that, I'll leave you with a little poll question. Vote away! This is Chicago after all...