Better Late Than Never

Following the Revolution’s elimination from the postseason race, fourth-year veteran Chris Tierney suggested that “jobs are on the line” going into the final three games of season.

Although that may seem drastic, Tierney’s point isn’t terribly off base. With the team chained to the basement, it stands to reason that more than a few Revolution players may be playing in their final games in Foxboro this month.

So with that in mind, which players are on the proverbial bubble going into the offseason? Let’s take a look at the roster and figure out, by position, which players must perform at their peak during these final three weeks of the season.

GOALKEEPERS: With Matt Reis’ recent injury history, Bobby Shuttleworth is currently tabbed as the successor to the starting job and, not coincidentally, will get a crucial start on Saturday. But has he warranted the job full-time should Reis depart or retire at the end of the season? His stats are, by no means, first-string stuff, so the third-year keeper will need to show the staff something on Saturday. Meanwhile, Tim Murray, who has served behind Shuttleworth for the past two seasons, is in the untenable position of occupying the understudy’s understudy spot, and barring an injury to Shuttleworth, probably won’t get a chance to prove himself before the end of the season.
Safe: Matt Reis
On the bubble: Bobby Shuttleworth, Tim Murray

DEFENDERS: While Darrius Barnes, A.J. Soares, and Kevin Alston appear to have their spots locked for now, that doesn’t mean that the talented trio isn’t in danger of being replaced next year. Just ask Barnes, who came off a solid 2010 and was rewarded for it by finding his natural center back spot filled by Franco Coria on First Kick. Ryan Cochrane and Franco Coria have played to their abilities, with mixed results, so both will need to avert the mistakes that have plagued them of late. A lack of first team minutes may send Otto Loewy in search of another club during the winter.
Safe: Kevin Alston, Darrius Barnes, A.J. Soares
On the bubble: Ryan Cochrane, Franco Coria, Otto Loewy

MIDFIELDERS: Without a doubt, the biggest question going into the offseason is whether Shalrie Joseph will return next year. If the skipper leaves, it’s likely that the organization will seek outside candidates for his replacement. However, that shouldn’t stop them from looking within, particularly with promising rookies like Stephen McCarthy and the technically-sound Andrew Sousa on the roster. Staying within the central midfield, Benny Feilhaber,will probably be back, while there’s a possibility Pat Phelan might become expendable if Joseph stays on. On the wings, Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi could find their Revolution careers coming to an end thanks to periods of inconsistency this season, while the right-sided Ryans – Guy and Kinne – will be battling to keep their spots. Although nothing is certain, especially with Steve Nicol on the hot seat, it appears Chris Tierney and Monsef Zerka may not have to worry as much as their less-experienced counterparts.
Safe: Shalrie Joseph, Benny Feilhaber, Chris Tierney, Monsef Zerka, Stephen McCarthy
On the bubble: Ryan Guy, Ryan Kinne, Sainey Nyassi, Kenny Mansally, Andrew Sousa, Pat Phelan, Zak Boggs

FORWARD: If there’s one player in particular who has to look over his shoulder during these final weeks, it’s Zack Schilawski. Last year’s first round pick has seen the likes of Rajko Lekic, Milton Caraglio, and Diego Fagundez all take the forward’s spot ahead of him this season and could be out of New England before next year. The same goes for Dube, who’s likely have to find another team after watching his minutes fall this year due to injury. Should Caraglio’s complex loan deal allow for it, expect the Argentine to remain on board, along with Lekic and Fagundez, both of whom have played well off of Caraglio, while Koger, who’s shown flashes during Reserve action, may find it difficult to keep his roster spot.
Safe: Diego Fagundez, Milton Caraglio, Rajko Lekic
On the bubble: Zack Schilawski, Kheli Dube, Alan Koger

The question, of course, concerning a few players on the bubble isn’t when they’ll get their chances, but if they’ll get their chances. In the cases of Loewy, Sousa, Kinne, and Koger, it appears that Nicol is in no hurry to get them on the field with the first team. As a result, next week’s Reserve Division finale could be their last shot.

Other players, such as Boggs, Schilawski, Mansally, Coria, and Cochrane, may have already seen their best chances in sticking with the squad pass them by. And with Nyassi possibly out for the duration of the season, the speedy winger may have already outraced his final defender as a member of Revs.

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About Brian O'Connell

Brian O'Connell serves as editor and staff writer at New England Soccer Today. He's also the Revolution beat writer for ESPNBoston.com, and is Officer at Large for the North American Soccer Reporters. He's contributed to The Associated Press, The Canadian Press, and has been featured on MLSSoccer.com & RevsNet.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianOConnell21 or e-mail him at BOConnell21@aol.com