New England Soccer Today

Growing into His Role

Photo credit: Jeff Bernstein

Photo credit: Jeff Bernstein

Despite using eight different players along the back line, the Revolution boast one of the top defensive units in MLS. They have collected four clean sheets, one shy of the MLS lead, and have conceded only three goals in their last seven games.

Surprisingly, this defensive success has come in the wake of injuries to starters Kevin Alston, Jose Goncalves and the versatile Darrius Barnes, who could miss the rest of the season after having left knee surgery. Since losing Barnes to injury, the Revolution have not had a misstep defensively thanks, in part, to the emergence of unheralded third-year pro London Woodberry.

After watching the squad’s first seven matches from the sidelines, Woodberry has started each of the last three games for coach Jay Heaps as a right back, shifting from his natural center back position. The quick transition has come naturally to the 23-year-old from McKinney, Tx., but his role should continue to grow as he becomes more comfortable with the move.

His growing comfort level and expanding role were on display in the Revolution’s 2-1 win over formerly unbeaten foe, the New York Red Bulls. Woodberry recorded his first career assist in the ninth minute of the Revs win when he lofted a well-weighted cross to Charlie Davies for the game’s opening goal. His recent form not only drew the attention of his teammates, but also that of Heaps.

“We’re really happy with London,” Heaps said after the match. “That was his third game in a row, and I think he’s got really good feet and he’s kind of like Andrew Farrell, he’s a natural center back. We saw him play in college quite a bit.

“His feet are really good and I love that he’s hitting early ball. Early in the game he hit the cross there and then there were a couple of others after that so we really like the way he’s putting the ball in the box. It’s almost giving us a match to Chris (Tierney) on the other side so that teams have to defend both sides.”

Photo credit: Jeff Bernstein

Photo credit: Jeff Bernstein

While Tierney is far more well-known for his crosses and ability to help create, Woodberry knows his ability can help spread the field and add to the attack.

“It just brings another dynamic to our attacking style team you know,” Woodberry said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys with a lot of different weapons and I think me coming in on the right is just another addition to what we have.”

The focus for Woodberry is now on growth at the position.

He has competed in just 11 MLS games, with his most recent three being the first three since the end of the 2013 season. While Woodberry has made strides, he is still not playing with the full defensive complement the Revolution have to offer.

The Revolution have been without starting center-back and skipper Jose Goncalves during Woodberry’s recent emergence. With Goncalves set to return to the starting lineup after coming on as a late-game substitute last weekend, Woodberry will have to adjust his style to fit with Farrell, who’s been playing the left center back’s spot in Goncalves’ absence while Jones has occupied the right.

While this development has the potential to shake a young player’s confidence, Woodberry is mindful that the Revolution, despite their recent success, are still a work in progress.

“I think going forward we’ve got a good team and we know what we possess with our quality,” Woodberry said. “So it’s coming together.”

2 Comments

  1. pauloblitzz

    May 7, 2015 at 9:29 am

    London is a great example as to how far the sport has come in the region. For a guy that young to be able to do what he has done is refreshing. More and more of the talent we have is finding it’s way to the top these days. Very glad we were able to sign him, he’s been huge.

    • Matt LaPan

      May 7, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      It shows just how well Heaps and Burns have been at evaluating talent in recent years. They had a vision and it took time to reach, but it appears they have “their guys” now. Woodberry provided great depth and is now taking advantage of an opportunity. He has been playing great and could be a huge piece moving forward.

      Very refreshing to see guys on a winning team still having to fight to make the XI

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