Coming out of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft as the 10th overall pick, Blair Gavin was expected to make a big splash in Major League Soccer. The former Akron Zip, who made a total of 6 appearances for the United States U18 and U20 squads between 2006 and 2008, was drafted by Chivas USA to help bolster their midfield and play a pivotal role for the club down the road. However, nagging hamstring injuries resulted in scarce playing time in his first two seasons, and by 2012 Gavin found himself low in the pecking order.
So Chivas sent him to Foxboro in exchange for Shalrie Joseph. In interviews I’ve seen and read, Gavin has seemed rather tentative about his move to the Revs, and the fact that he was still battling with injury coupled with now having to play on field turf didn’t exactly make his transition very easy. However, now that New England can afford to spread the minutes around the roster due to injuries, suspensions, and a lack of playoff contention, Gavin has finally found himself with an opportunity to show Revs fans what he has to offer—and he did just that this past Saturday night.
Gavin slotted into central midfield against the Chicago Fire, pairing with Clyde Simms. Both are more complimentary players than focal points, but they teamed up well together right out of the gate, with plenty of credit to the game plan drawn up by Jay Heaps. Though he’s yet to be at full fitness, Gavin went toe to toe with Chicago’s first team for a solid 60 minutes—breaking up passes and dispossessing the Fire’s attacks as well as making darting, well-timed runs when the Revs were on a counter. Gavin showed just how well-rounded a central midfielder he can be. So, this begs the question: where does he fit in Jay Heaps’ plans for next season?
For starters, Gavin is purely a central midfielder. When we spoke with The Goat Parade’s Alicia Ratteree back in August after the Shalrie trade, she pointed out that Robin Fraser was playing Gavin out of position out wide which did not suit his playing style and did not allow him to showcase his strengths. Gavin seems to certainly possess the talents to play back-up to Clyde Simms at defensive midfield, but Gavin may best be suited for a CM or CAM role. This would mean that he is in competition with the likes of Benny Feilhaber (if he isn’t traded in the off-season), Ryan Guy, Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen, Juan Toja, and potentially even Scott Caldwell if he is signed to a Homegrown player contract as he is expected to be.
Now, with the exceptions of Feilhaber and Caldwell, the others mentioned above can slot out wide (and have more often than not in 2012). But if you consider, at the very least, that Lee Nguyen and Juan Toja are shoe-ins for the 2013 starting XI, then Gavin’s main competition for minutes will likely be with Kelyn Rowe and Ryan Guy for that final spot in a 4-man midfield (a 5-man midfield would of course open things up a bit more).
Regardless, the fact of the matter is that Gavin is likely going to be looking at a back-up role next season. If he can stay healthy, though, he may find himself making the game-day 18 pretty consistently. And, hey, who knows, maybe he’ll have a superb pre-season and make a case for the starting XI come March. Whichever way you slice it, Gavin has a big opportunity to prove that he still can be the touted player he was at Akron. If he can make Jay Heaps see that (which, after Saturday, it seems he is already well on his way towards doing), then he may pay off big for the 2013 Revolution.