New England Soccer Today

Roundtable: Changing it Up

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Death, taxes, and Jay Heaps tweaking the lineup.

On Sunday, the Revolution coach revamped his personnel, starting Josh Smith and Xavier Kouassi over Benjamin Angoua and Scott Caldwell, respectively. But the tinkering didn’t end there, as Chris Tierney was subbed off for Je-Vaughn Watson in a like-for-like change at left back.

With changes aplenty in Portland, our writers debate: Did you agree with all of the changes?

And don’t forget: we want to hear from you! Give us your take in the comments section.

Sean Donahue:After the fact, it’s easy to look at the decision to start Josh Smith as the right one by Jay Heaps. Still, overall, despite the point, I do not agree with the line-up changes. Heaps has seemingly put more focus on adjusting the formation and line-up this year based on opponents, which isn’t a bad thing, particularly on the road. That is where the Josh Smith over Benjamin Angoua move makes sense as a strong physical center back can match up better with Portland’s Fanendo Adi, and Smith did. With that said, there is perhaps no area of the field where chemistry is more important than center back and to break up the Antonio Mlinar Delamea and Angoua pairing this early when they pair is just putting things together after three games is a bad choice long term for that reason. Even so, the bigger issue with the line-up changes was in midfield. While Xavier Kouassi starting was inevitable, removing Scott Caldwell from the line-up instead of Kelyn Rowe was a move that left Chris Tierney exposed against a very difficult opponent. As we’ve discussed at NEST before, Caldwell does a lot of work covering for Tierney when Tierney gets caught forward and that was noticeable in his absence here. Heaps eventually was forced to put on Je-Vaughn Watson for Tierney early in the second half to adjust for this and may need to consider doing that from the start of the game going forward against pacy attacks if Kouassi continues to take Caldwell’s spot in the line-up. The issues caused by taking Caldwell out were predictable and for that reason, it’s especially hard to agree with Heaps’ line-up choices, despite the point.

Greg Johnstone: While I’m not a fan of sending Scott Caldwell to the bench, I think Jay Heaps got the lineup correct on Sunday. Kouassi has shown he can hold his own at the back of the diamond. Rowe, who had a team high 67 touches, possesses better passing and offensive skills than Caldwell, which left Caldwell as the odd man out. It was a surprise to see Joshua Smith in the lineup, but with the benefit of hindsight, that move proved to be a good one on Heaps’ part, as Smith had a strong debut. I’m not convinced Smith should supplant Angoua full-time, but it was a good opportunity to give Smith some minutes while sending a message that sloppy mistakes will be punished. The Revolution’s performance wasn’t the best, but I have no complaints about the lineup.

Brian O’Connell: Yes and no. Rolling out a rookie at center back against Fanendo Adi was a bold move that paid off for the Revolution, even if they escaped with a draw by the skin of their teeth. Josh Smith proved himself worthy of more minutes in the XI, without a doubt. Another noteworthy change: taking a healthy Chris Tierney out for Je-Vaughn Watson before the hour, a move that certainly wasn’t an endorsement of the longtime Revolution left back. With two key changes to the rear on Sunday, the concern becomes whether tinkering with the defense will is a good thing in the long run. Given how elusive consistency across the backline was last year, you have to wonder whether these moves, while they may have worked against a Timbers offense that sabotaged itself on Sunday, will actually pay off.

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