New England Soccer Today

Who Will Fill Goncalves’ Spot?

Photo credit: New England Revolution

Photo credit: New England Revolution

Revolution center back Jose Goncalves will be forced to sit out Saturday’s home opener against Montreal after he received a red card for a foul on Khiry Shelton during the 67th minute of Sunday’s match. With Goncalves unable to go against the Impact, who will Jay Heaps tab to replace him?

A quick study shows that the Revolution have three other players on the roster who’ve manned one of the two center back spots (aside from Andrew Farrell) either during MLS play or during the preseason: Darrius Barnes, London Woodberry, Chris Tierney.

Of the three, Barnes appears to be the most obvious choice. The seventh-year defender broke into MLS as a center back before he was moved to the wings. During his seven years in the league, he’s started a total of 66 games at center back, but his last start in the middle was back in 2013. After A.J. Soares departed during the offseason, Barnes did see time at his former spot during the preseason.

The only thing that may keep him from getting the nod is the status of Kevin Alston, whom Barnes had to spell during the second half of Sunday’s contest. If Alston is unable to go against Montreal, Barnes may have to fill in at right back instead. That is, of course, unless Heaps is ready to use Jeremy Hall – who hasn’t made the 18 during the first two matches – on the right, allowing Barnes to partner with Farrell.

If Heaps ultimately chooses to use Barnes at right back, London Woodberry is the next logical choice to take over next to Farrell. Woodbury saw the bulk of his 214 preseason minutes at center back. Of course, preseason minutes are a much different than regular season minutes – the latter of which Woodberry is still waiting to receive in his second year in the league.

Last, but not least, is Tierney. Yes, the league’s most accurate free kick specialist once dabbled as a central player during the early stages of his career. But his last start at center back came in a 2011 U.S. Open Cup match against New York Red Bulls. It’s highly unlikely Heaps would choose to put Tierney at the spot, especially in light of his effectiveness on the wing. But if the Revolution coach is known for anything, it’s thinking outside the box (see: Soares at defensive midfielder last year).

This brings us to a dark horse candidate who’ve never played at center back: Andy Dorman. The 32-year-old midfielder is decent in the air, and has enough verve in his game to fill the void, at least on paper. But much like the scenario surrounding Tierney, most coaches tend to avoid taking a player out of the spot he’s best suited for.

Regardless of whoever Heaps decides to go with, the Revolution will need everyone from top to bottom to recommit themselves defensively if they hope to get win no. 1 against Montreal on Saturday.


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