New England Soccer Today

Help Wanted

Preseason trialist Flo Lechner is one option the Revolution may want to explore to bolster its defense along the edges (Photo: Joshua Pearson).

Between the expected early-season gaffes and growing pains under a new head coach, one glaring issue that emerged from Saturday’s 1-0 loss can be summed up in the following sequence: A.J. Soares, left back.

Yes, the same A.J. Soares who put together impressive rookie year and lived up to the billing of a Top 10 draft pick. At center back. And by “center back,” we mean “his natural position.”

What forced Soares to slide over to the left was a byproduct of at least three separate conditions leading up to the game. Two were completely out of the hands of Jay Heaps. But one, however, could’ve been remedied well before the first whistle of 2012.

The unavoidable: Chris Tierney, who figured to get the nod at left back, had to sit out due to  red card suspension. That, paired with a late-week injury suffered by Darrius Barnes, left Heaps scrambling to find someone to fill the left quarter of the back four.

But it wasn’t just a suspension, nor injury, that landed Soares at left back. Rather, it was a larger issue that loomed: a glaring lack of depth on the defensive edges.

A cursory look at the Revolution roster will yield the fact that there are only two natural wingbacks on the roster – Kevin Alston and Tyler Polak. And although you could add Barnes – who played right back in college and often featured on the left last season – to that list, that still only leaves three outside backs to fill two roles.

For a team that finished a goal shy of sharing the league lead in goals allowed last year, it’s troubling the defensive depth along the edges remains an issue. Yes, the team used its second pick in the draft on left back Tyler Polak. But, outside of Polak, no other outside defenders were signed this offseason.

Granted, Polak, despite a curiously quiet preseason, showed promise when he came on for Soares late. The potential is there. However, it doesn’t appear that the rookie is absolutely ready to make the left back spot his.

Of course, the lack of outside defending isn’t anything new. Rather, it’s a recurring problem. Toward the twilight of Steve Nicol’s tenure, a number of midfielders were introduced to the wingback role. Just ask Tierney, Ryan Kinne, Zak Boggs and even Khano Smith about their experiences.

Heaps can control a lot of things, but one area he didn’t have a say in is the roster he inherited. When he assumed the head coaching role in November, Alston and Barnes were the only proven wingbacks on the roster. So, while it may be easy to point the finger at Heaps and General Manager Michael Burns, the fact is that the squad list they were handed was already painfully short of outside defenders.

Still, an argument could be made that Kinne should not have been waived. And it’s not without merit based upon the second-year player’s form in training and preseason contests. But, on a team stacked with role players, the spot that Kinne would’ve taken is one less the organization would’ve had to use in finding a legitimate wingback.

One positive development is that preseason trialist Flo Lechner – a 31-year-old right back formerly of Bundesliga 2 –  is reportedly close to coming to terms with New England. Although one player won’t solve the problem overnight, it is, at very least, a visible sign that the Revolution are actively addressing the issue.

But even if they sign Lechner, they’ll have to do more. They’ll have to continue to find at least one more outside back – if only to push the starters –  before they can feel better about their defense. Because let’s face it: the Revolution is no stranger to injuries, suspensions and poor performances.

That, combined with the focus on improving the eleven in transition, should give the Revolution even greater urgency to recruit defensive reinforcements. After all, nothing plugs the passing lanes better than solid defending.

With the team planning on carrying 28 players – two short of the maximum – this season, one roster spot remains open. We’ll see if Lechner fills it.

Either way, if Saturday’s loss showed anything about the club’s roster composition, it’s that the Revolution won’t be able to rebound from last year without adding defensive depth along the edges.


  1. Chris B

    March 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Well it seems that the Revs are negotiating with Lechner and Runstrom so they must be planning something with the roster spots…

    I agree with the article, the dearth of fullbacks is depressing!

  2. rick sewall

    March 13, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Outside backs are a lot easier to find than goalscorers. Finding one somewhere should not be too much of a problem. Another glaring Rev weakness is defensive midfield. Sharlie used to be pretty good, but not now. There was a big gap between the back 4 and the midfielders all last year. this is another solvable problem. Get going, administration.

  3. shurley

    March 13, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    So it sounds like both Soares AND Lozano are injured and may not play this weekend, and Barnes is out again as well. Never mind the wings (well, DO mind them, but ya know …); who will partner with our ONE backup center back (McCarthy, a converted midfielder) this weekend? Or are we going to convert from a 4-4-2 to a 3-6-1, given who we’ve got available?

  4. Brian O'Connell

    March 14, 2012 at 12:10 am

    If the injury list remains the same on Friday, it looks like it could be McCarthy and quite possibly…Tierney or Roach. I’ll keep an eye out to see who’s stationed in the heart of the D at training on Wednesday.

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