New England Revolution Starting XI: Where We Stand

The Brain Trust

Now that preseason has begun for the New England Revolution, it's time to take stock of what the team has and where it needs to improve. In that vein, I've decided to do a quick "if the season began tomorrow" examination of the optimal starting XI (and game day 18) on the roster right now.

I have taken a few liberties. I'm assuming the Supplemental Draft selections are all signed (they most certainly are not) and am using John Lozano and Fernando Cardenas, despite the fact that they do not officially join the roster until the transfer window opens on the 24th. Frankly, though, without them, I'd have almost nothing to choose from, so give me a break.

The formation will be a basic 4-4-2, since there's been no indication thus far of what sort of system Jay Heaps may try to install. Lineup available after the jump.

------------------Cardenas-----Fagundez--------------------
-----------------------Feilhaber-------------------------------
-Tierney-------------------------------------------------Guy-
-------------------------------Joseph---------------------------
----Polak------------------------------------------Alston-----
----------------------Lozano----Soares-----------------------
----------------------------Reis---------------------------------

Bench: Bobby Shuttleworth, Darrius Barnes, Sainey Nyassi, Kelyn Rowe, Zack Schilawski, Ryan Kinne, Clyde Simms

Immediately what jumps out is a crippling lack of defensive depth. Darrius Barnes is the only true defender I had left to include on the bench. Kevin Garcia may be able to play on the back line, and may end up there, but I doubt he'll be a Barnes-caliber player this season. Lozano gets the nod in central defense over Barnes mostly because he's the new guy and I have high hopes for him. The two are basically interchangeable in my mind.

Out of the SuperDraft selections, Rowe is arguably more pro-ready, but his position is occupied by a United States full international in Benny Feilhaber, so he gets bench duty while Tyler Polak jumps straight in as the starting left back. Is it too much to hope that Polak will hit the ground running a la Seth Sinovic in 2010? Probably, but then again, he is a more-heralded talent coming out of college. In any case, unless he's an unmitigated disaster, I find that putting him out there to sink or swim is preferable to forcing Chris Tierney or Barnes to play out of position again.

Clyde Simms rides the bench because, while a very good central midfielder for this league, he isn't better than Shalrie Joseph. He also kicks Stephen McCarthy to the curb because, given the choice between the two, I want Simms entering the game late to seal a victory. I haven't forgotten McCarthy's error on the first Philadelphia goal in that embarrassing loss, and Simms' veteran savvy is better for that situation anyway. That isn't to say that I believe McCarthy shouldn't see time this season - he was relatively solid last year before injuries knocked him out - but Simms is the obvious choice.

Tierney and Guy on the wings gives the Revs solid if unspectacular wing play. I wrestled with the idea of putting Cardenas on the wing and benching Tierney, but in the end the lack of forward options bumped the Colombian up top and left the wing open. Ryan Guy deserves to start on this team after last season's performances, and I don't think I'll get any argument from you readers there (not that I won't welcome the argument if you do). Nyassi's speed could be an asset late, but unless Jay Heaps can help him develop a final product, the Gambian's run as a starter should be over.

Finally, up top we have Cardenas and the wonderkid Diego Fagundez. I really, really don't want to see Diego as an everyday starter this season. He's still young and still growing physically, and to ask him to shoulder the load as a professional starting striker is as much unfair as it is potentially damaging. Unfortunately, the idea of starting Ryan Kinne (unproven) or Schilawski (proven to be subpar) is a lot less attractive right now. Cardenas starts up there with him because he apparently has experience at forward, and as a left-footed speedster he brings a dimension to the attack that the team hasn't really seen before.

From there, the subs filled out logically. Kinne needs to get on the pitch this year, so he makes the bench. I sincerely believe that Rowe will contribute this season and thus he needs to be available as well. Shuttleworth is the second-best goalkeeper on the roster. The rest have already been discussed.

Players who didn't make the matchday squad: Stephen McCarthy, Zak Boggs, Tim Murray, Kenny Mansally, Dawyne Smith, Alec Purdie, Kevin Garcia, Michael Roach.

Agree or disagree? Have questions or opinions of your own? Continue the discussion in the comments below!

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