New England Soccer Today

Heaps Eyeing Farrell to Fill Soares’ Spot

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It wasn’t the kind situation Jay Heaps expected as he and his squad entered preseason camp: Having to find a new starting center back.

Days after the Revolution’s MLS Cup final clash with LA Galaxy, KickTV‘s Jimmy Conrad tweeted that A.J. Soares – who was voted the team’s Defender of the Year for 2014 – was bound for Serie A side Hellas Verona once his contract expired at the end of December.

Though the news came as a surprise to the front office and coaching staff, Heaps feels comfortable tabbing a familiar face to fill the void.

“A.J. Soares is obviously a difficult one to replace,” Heaps said. “I don’t think it’s an easy one, but that said, I feel really strongly with Andrew Farrell as a center back partnered with Jose (Goncalves). I think the two of them could really be a strong partnership.”

Farrell has gotten the bulk of his minutes at right back during his first two seasons in MLS, but injuries forced the former first-round pick to slide into the central defense for 10 games in 2014. The learning curve wasn’t difficult considering that Farrell was primarily a center back in college.

While the 22-year-old defender isn’t worried about the move, he cautioned that it’ll take time to build a sound partnership with Goncalves considering that seven of his 10 starts at center back last season saw him slotted beside Soares.

“I feel comfortable, obviously, I have to get that chemistry down if I am in the middle with Jose, and get that down,” Farrell said. “When I played in the middle, I was playing with A.J. because Jose was out with an injury, but I think I’ll be able to slide in and complement him well.”

By no means, though, does Farrell believe he has the spot locked up. The Revolution brought in Jeremy Hall via trade from Toronto as a possible solution. Plus, with Jermaine Jones likely to get a few looks at center back given his new role with the U.S. National Team, it appears that the Revolution have other options, as well.

But with nine open roster spots to work with, Heaps was quick to point out that the club is still looking for outside candidates.

“We’ve also really opened up an active search for center backs that can also come in and help us,” Heaps said. “A.J.’s (move) – that one did catch us off guard, so the center backs search is definitely delayed.”

That search, of course, is out of Farrell’s control. For him, the departure of his former teammate has given him an opportunity that he could use to elevate his profile within the league and, possibly, with the U.S. National Team.

“We’ll see how that goes,” Farrell said. “We have a lot of good defenders that can slide in the middle, and that’s a place I played a little bit last year, and a lot in college. A.J. was huge in there for us last year, and the last couple years. It’s going to be a hard role to fill, but I’m up for it.”

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