The Clyde Simms Question

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Clyde Simms was the pendulum in the Revolution midfield this past season. But he had his fair share of both ups and downs. Here's a look at how 2012 played out and some thoughts on what 2013 will bring for the man in the middle.

For 6 seasons, Clyde Simms was a key focal point in the D.C. United midfield. He made 182 with United and was widely considered to be one of the most consistent defensive-midfielders in the league. Then came the emergence of Perry Kitchen. Kitchen, a former Akron Zip, was drafted by United in the 2011 SuperDraft and he quickly found himself in a battle for minutes and a starting spot in the midfield.

Kitchen’s promising play coupled with his salary being off the books due to his Generation Adidas contract, Simms’ veteran salary was soon viewed as too sizeable to keep around. He was released to the MLS Re-Entry Draft and found himself a new home with the New England Revolution.

Upon coming to New England, many anticipated that Simms would play a back-up role to then-captain Shalrie Joseph. But after impressing Jay Heaps and his staff in the pre-season, it soon became clear that Simms was too important to leave on the sidelines.

The 2012 Revolution season started off with a lot of promise, and the play of Clyde Simms was a bright spot very early on. He was quick to take to Jay Heaps’ new philosophy of possession-oriented soccer. Simms helped the Revs develop a simple-passing mentality to their game, contributing to Heaps’ desire to build out of the back rather than have the keeper launch balls down field as had become the normal routine.

However, a mid-season injury left Simms sidelined for a significant stretch of games, forcing others to step up and try to fill that role in the midfield. Many tried, but none were quite able to replicate Simms’ presence on the pitch. Then Simms came back from injury, but the same Clyde Simms wasn’t really there.

His game seemed to drop off a bit—his passing was a bit sloppier, his decisions a bit more erratic—and the Revolution’s season started to take a turn for the worse. Is Clyde Simms to blame for that? No, absolutely not. There were plenty of other problems that contributed to New England’s decline (poor defending on set pieces, a lack of physicality to their game, a leaky back-line, etc.). But Simms’ drop-off certainly didn’t help.

In the final stretch of games, however, Simms seemed to come back into his early-season form, and Revs fans were soon reminded of just how critical his inclusion can be when he is at 100%. Whether it was his mid-season injury that took longer than expected to heal, or just the Revs’ season in general that took its toll on him, it doesn’t really matter. The Simms that impressed in April was back in October, albeit a couple months too late.

So, what does that mean for Simms in 2013? Well, I would postulate that the only thing holding back Simms from being the pivotal center-piece of the Revolution midfield is his lack of a consistent partner in the center of the pitch. Simms is largely considered to be a complimentary player who is best paired with a more attack-minded, vertically-moving counterpart. Simms was paired throughout the season with the likes of Benny Feilhaber, Shalrie Joseph, Ryan Guy, and even Blair Gavin, but none without any real consistency. And maybe that is the missing piece.

Simms’ role in the New England Revolution starting XI is undeniable. Jay Heaps employed him most effectively this past season in a position just in front of the back-line. There he would add defensive cover for not only the center-backs, but also was able to cover for both full-backs as he often found himself being asked to move from sideline-to-sideline as opposed to box-to-box. It’s this role that Jay Heaps should be looking to further cultivate in the off-season, and the most important part will be finding him that consistent central-midfield partner who can take care of the rest.

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