On Friday, New England Soccer Today‘s Sean Donahue wrote about the positional battle between Stephen McCarthy and A.J. Soares for the center back spot opposite of Jose Goncalves.
As a follow up, we asked four local writers give their take on the duel at center back. Here’s what they had to say:
Sean Donahue, New England Soccer Today: While I don’t think there is too much to separate McCarthy v. Soares – particularly if Soares continues to cut down on the errors that plagued his sophomore season like he did down the stretch in 2013 – if the choice was to be made right now without the ability to factor in preseason form, I’d have to go McCarthy. The biggest thing separating McCarthy from Soares is the ability to pass out of the back and the difference from McCarthy’s 83.3% passing accuracy to Soares’ 72.1% can’t be easily overlooked. With Heaps looking to play a possession brand of soccer, a lot of that comes from building from the back and McCarthy gives the team a sizeable advantage here.
Still, Soares has his advantages as well and the fourth year defender improved greatly last season at avoiding diving into tackles and giving up dangerous free kicks – something McCarthy seemed to regress a bit on. Soares also positioned himself to make some game saving blocks last season and has the advantage of having played the position longer. With the competition largely even elsewhere – outside of McCarthy’s aerial advantage due to his height – Heaps’ would be wise to select whoever is in the best form at the end of preseason, with the slight edge to McCarthy if it’s even.
Justin Churchill, goal.com: I think it all really depends on form. As many saw last year, each defender was streaky at different points of the year. Soares was seeing the field towards the end of the season and may still in favor with Heaps.
Ryan Lanigan, New England Soccer Today: Competition is always a good thing and with two – or maybe more – candidates vying to partner with Jose Goncalves in the middle of the Revs defense, the best option is AJ Soares. If you look at the last 11 games of the regular season last year, Soares started in 10 of them and the team boasted a 6-1-3 record with two shut outs. I think it was in that time that Soares really proved to be the best option for the team. Stephen McCarthy was also part of a huge part of last season, starting in all four of the Revs games in which they had four straight shutouts (5/18-6/18). They are very close in a lot of statistics and in some cases the numbers favor McCarthy but in the end I think results are the most important part. I think he worked well with Goncalves in the middle, and though McCarthy certainly offers height, Goncalves can be that option with Soares being his partner.
This past season Soares showed improvement from his second year – which can accurately described a sophomore slump given the skill he showed in his rookie and third years in the league. He will need to improve on his patience with the ball as he sometime has the tendency to rush the play, but he showed signs of improvement on that last season. At times, Soares has been on the bad end of a strong offensive push but there are also times he makes a huge play to save the day. Expect more of the latter if he earns the starting nod this year.