In a season that’s seen its fair share of lows, the Revolution almost fell into another one on Saturday.
Despite coming out strong, and improving their possession in the second half, the local XI came within seconds of being the first Revolution team since 2002 edition to lose at home to the Red Bulls/MetroStars. Literally, seconds.
Then, with referee Sorin Stoica looking at his watch, the hosts planted the shovel and dug in. Darrius Barnes and Wilman Conde battled for a long Bobby Shuttleworth ball. Conde won. But Ryan Guy scooped it up, then crossed it to Barnes, who wouldn’t be denied twice, and saved the Revolution from an ignominious defeat.
Yes, the playoff ship may have set sail. The games may not mean as much as they did in July. But Jay Heaps will tell you, just as he told the media after the game, that “there is so much to fight for.”
And you know what? Saturday’s draw proved that he’s not the only one who believes it, either.
So what else did we learn from the final meeting of the season between old rivals?
1. It’s looking more and more likely that Bobby Shuttleworth will be the starting goalkeeper next year. Given the circumstances, it wasn’t entirely shocking to see Shuttleworth get the start on Saturday. After all, Heaps has made no secret of using these final few games to give as many guys looks before the season finale. And, to his credit, the fourth-year keeper performed reasonably well. While he may have been caught in no-man’s land on the Conde corner that led to Lindpere’s goal, he organized well. Even when Lechner’s injury forced changes to the rear, Shuttleworth kept his defenders on the same page. It wasn’t a flawless performance, but it was one that Heaps may look back to when making roster decisions this winter.
2. Kelyn Rowe might be well served to do some speed training during the offseason. When the former UCLA Bruin was taken third overall in the SuperDraft earlier this year, one word that kept popping up was “dynamic.” Another was “raw.” Then again, most 20-year-olds come into pro sports in need of some polish. And he’s already getting that, thanks to additional playing time in the second half. But if he’s going to reach the potential that many in the front office are hoping for, he’ll need to get faster. During Saturday’s performance, there times in which he lumbered down the right. He wasn’t glacial, by any means. But regardless of whether he’s the future #10, or makes his mark out wide, Rowe will need the speed to sharpen the offense, especially on the counter.
3. Jerry Bengtson misses Saer Sene. They may not have played together more than six times this season, but the Honduran isn’t who is he usually is without the blonde mohawk on the pitch. When Sene is on the pitch, Bengtson can count on a few luscious rebounds or balls to fall his way. He knows where to be when Sene holds the ball – or at least tries to, and makes the appropriate run. It’s not nanoscience. But with Sene on the injury list, Bengtson doesn’t see as many opportunities. Note: that’s not a knock on Diego Fagundez. By no means. But it’s clear that the high-priced striker needs a strong presence near him to get goals. Without that presence, Bengtson may have to weather some struggles in these final four games.
4. A.J. Soares may be battling for playing time down the stretch. The second-year center back was back in action after a three-game absence, ready to reclaim his spot in the rear. Back at home, against a New York side that didn’t feature Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper, he couldn’t ask for a better opportunity. Hats off, he did realtively well in the first half, even if he wasn’t tested very often. Then came the sequence that Lindpere secured the opening goal. If it looked like another miscommunication gone awry, it’s because it was. There’s no question Soares is talented enough to man the position for years. But for now, let’s just say that Heaps may do some more tinkering in the central defense before Oct. 27.
5. Darrius Barnes proved his worth. Again. Forgive the former Blue Devil if he came into the season scratching his head. He was a starter in his first three seasons, then watched the club bring in John Lozano, and shift Stephen McCarthy into the back. The end result? Barnes assumed a new role: substitute. Yet, even through the professional adversity, he never gave up. He never sulked. He waited his turn, and when he got it, he helped post shutouts against K.C., Philadelphia and Columbus. On Saturday, Lechner’s injury forced him wide, and he didn’t miss a beat. Then, when his team needed a goal, he stepped up an delivered. It wasn’t a fluke. Rather, it was a reminder of how valuable he is to this team.
5A. We writers are sometimes wrong - hopelessly wrong – and Darrius Barnes served a slice of “You’re Wrong” pie on Saturday. In last week’s edition of “Five Things…”, I spelled out that Barnes may be ticketed for a return to the bench after the D.C. game. That his performance at RFK Stadium shouldn’t warrant an automatic start the following week – especially with A.J. Soares on standby. Well, for the 17,893rd time (low estimate), I was wrong. Not only did he play a sound brand of defense, but he did one better and scored the game-tying goal. In other words, the Revolution lose without him on the pitch. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some pie to devour…