Can the 2010 Revolution Play in a 352 alignment
It seems that the Revolution team that led the league in scoring over the 2002-2007 period did most its damage in the 352, and that they've struggled to score since switching to the 442 in late 2008. Maybe it has little to do with the alignment and more to do with the health of Mr. Taylor Twellman. But let us examine the 2010 roster to see if it could be suitable for a switch to the 352 at some point.
First let's examine some of the different requirements of each position in the two formations. We'll assume that the goalkeeper's role doesn't change much.
Defense: Obviously the number of defenders is different, but so is the type of defender needed. To play with three in the back, it's more about positioning, shape, and communication (i.e. soccer smarts) than it is about athleticism and one-v-one defending, though all defenders need a certain amount each to be called defenders in the first place. In the four-man backline, you need more athleticism on the wings and wing backs that can contribute going forward.
It seems that Barnes, Gibbs, Osei, Badilla, and Alston have the qualities to play in a 3-man backline, with the caveat that communication may be an issue with Osei and Badilla. Maybe Tierney and Phelan could show well in a pinch. Alston is better suited as a wing back in the 442, but he didn't seem uncomfortable the few times the Revs showed a 352 in 2009. We haven't seen Sinovic yet, but all descriptions lead me to believe he is a left-sided Alston who would be better suited as a wingback, but maybe he can learn the role as well.
Midfield: The 352 would require two central midfielders who can disrupt in the back and alternately link with the attack. One of these can be a classical destroying midfielder. We know Joseph can do this and have been sold on Niouky being a solid two-way midfielder. Phelan can play the more defensive of the two if he has limited offensive responsibility. Videira is probably not a fit here. We've seen Badilla here in limited action two years ago and he could maybe provide depth, if needed.
The third central midfielder would need to be able to control tempo, and create offensively. This was the natural role for an aging Ralston, but he's gone. Presently, on the roster, this position might be able to be filled by Colaluca or Videira based on skill-level alone. Neither one has the experience you would like to see in this pivotal position, though. And both still have questions to answer concerning their future as MLS players. Castro was billed as the type of player who could fit this role, but on the few occasions where he could have been used here, he was not. Perhaps, if they are able to sign recent trialist Marko Perovic, he could step into this role. Jankauskas might be another candidate in a pinch.
I think this attacking midfield position is the one with the most questions, but that there are available, unproven options. This, I feel, would be Videira's best position, or would be the position in which he had the best chance of success.
The wing midfielders in the 352 need to be able to get up and down the wings and provide offensive spark and defensive cover. Nyassi and Mansally can both do the work, but both are better going forward (if inconsistent) than defending. I would put Cololuca, Castro, and probably Boggs in the same boat. Maybe Alston, Sinovic, and Teirney can find spots at the wing midfield if they aren't needed in the back in the 352. I guess this is also a position of concern if they transition to a 352.
Forwards: The 352, and the presence of an attacking midfielder who can control the offense, takes some pressure off the forwards' responsibility to hold up the ball in a target role as the team transitions into the attack. While Twellman and Jankauskas (if healthy) can fill that target role effectively, our other forwards are not suited for it at this point in their careers (and some may never be). I think Dube, Schilawski, Mansally, and Colaluca would all be better fits playing off a target forward in a 442 or as partners in a 352.
So, in conclusion, I believe the Revs could have a solid defensive core in either formation. We already know that the offensive will struggle in a 442 without a strong target forward who can hold the ball and transition the team into the attack. Both the candidates to fill that role are presently injured, with one having an unknown return timetable and the other struggling to stay healthy for any period of time. I don't like to consider Joseph a candidate for forward and hope to not see him there in 2010.
That leaves me wanting to see a 352 again even though its success will depend on a number of young players stepping up to redeem their potential into consistent professional performance.
My opening day 352 would look like this (assuming Barnes, Alston, and Jankauskas are likely to be healthly and Badilla, Castro, and Twellman are not):
Forwards: Dube, Schilawski
Attacking Midfielder: Colaluca
Wide midfielders: Mansally, Alston
Defensive Midfielders: Niouky, Joseph
Defenders: Osei, Gibbs, Barnes