New England Soccer Today

Question Marks Loom in Simms’ Absence

Without Clyde Simms, the Revolution will have to find out a way to match an organized Dynamo squad that often padlocks its opponent in the middle of the park. (Photo: Chris Aduama/

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There’s no question that Clyde Simms has been a difference maker in central midfield this season. As the team’s starting defensive midfielder, he’s counted upon to win back possession and aid the transition between offense and defense.

But on Saturday night, Simms, who’s listed as “out” with left ankle tendonitis, won’t be in the starting lineup for the first time this season.

“Clyde has been exceptional for us this year with what he does,” said Chris Tierney after Friday’s training session. “He plays simple and breaks things up. If he’s not able to go someone will have to fill his shoes.”

The ability to control the midfield, due in large part to the contributions of Simms, has bolstered the Revolution’s overall form this season. The eight-year veteran understands the style of play of MLS, and his experience has only helped an otherwise up-and-coming squad.

Meanwhile, Houston aren’t lacking veteran players. Most of Houston’s current team were around for last year’s MLS Cup Final loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy, while three of their squad members played against the Revolution in the 2007 Championship Game.

“It’s kind of like clockwork with Houston,” said Heaps. “They’re going to be a difficult team to play against, as they are every year, no matter where you play them, when you play them, who’s in the lineup. This is going to be a dogfight from the start.”

“They do a lot of things well. They can win every second ball, they can win the long ball, they can move the ball well when the game settles in and on set pieces they are very dynamic.”

Set pieces are perhaps Houston’s greatest strength. Six of Houston’s starters are listed above six feet, while set piece artist Brad Davis can tilt any game in Houston’s favor. Davis has made the Revolution pay before, assisting on the game-winning goal of the 2007 MLS Cup Final. But the assist in the Cup Final was no fluke. Davis one of the league’s best left-footed players and has made a habit of scoring and setting up goals, especially recently.

Last week against D.C. United, Davis gave Houston their first win at the newly-constructed BBVA Stadium with a cannon from long range. In 2011, he helped lead Houston to another title game by leading the league in assists. And if longevity means anything, Davis’ experience is unparalleled – he is the only field player between Houston and New England that started playing in MLS in 2002.

“It’s a big part of their game: great service from Brad Davis,” said Chris Tierney. “They’ve got some big boys up there that battle. We just need to stand up and be physical and that will give us a good chance to win.”

That’s why Simms absence will be a tall hurdle for the Revolution to clear. Though the Revolution are talented and have been competitive in almost all of their matches this season, youth and inexperience continues to plague them.

Not having the partnership between Shalrie Joseph and Simms on Saturday night could prevent the Revolution from executing their preferred offensive style. And as far as cleaning up messes in midfield and transitioning into attack go, Simms has been above expectations.

Heaps will have to shift the midfield to accommodate the hole left by Simms’ absence. Kelyn Rowe could fill into offensive midfield which would allow Benny Feilhaber to fill-in for Simms and pair with Joseph in midfield.

“Kelyn is ready to go,” said Heaps. “Kelyn’s fitness level is sharp and he only had a small injury and we’re glad that he’s back and available.”

No matter who takes the field for the Revolution, the objective is always the same: get enough goals to grab the win. But Houston is a physical team, and the Revolution are expecting a battle.

“We’re looking to score goals and get out ahead,” said Tierney. “The first goal is crucial. If we get it, I think we have a good chance.”

Our center backs are establishing themselves and being really physical, those are two guys who no one really wants to play against. As long as we continue to get better and play strong, we’re going to have a chance to win.”

Julian Cardillo can reached at

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