FOXBORO, MA - MAY 12: Lee Nguyen #24 the New England Revolution keeps the ball from the Vancouver Whitecaps after scoring a goal in the first half at Gillette Stadium May 12, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Gail Oskin/Getty Images)
The Revolution midfield has shown so far this season that it is one of the most dynamic and dangerous in all of Major League Soccer. With a seemingly endless number of combinations, the Revs have a real dominance in the center of the pitch that can rarely be matched. But their own worst enemy can sometimes be themselves, with the occasional uncertainty as to which midfield will show up on game day. Nevertheless, with a mix of veteran leaders and attack-minded newcomers, the Revolution have the tools to dismantle any opponent.
For starters, MLS veteran and team captain Shalrie Joseph has shown that he can anchor this team from wherever he may be on the pitch. But in the midfield is where he really struts his stuff. Although the 6-foot-3 Grenadian has at times this season looked like he's lost a step or two physically, which he himself will admit, he more than makes up for it with his leadership, his work ethic, and his mental awareness of the game and of the league. At 34-years-old, Joseph is the face of the Revolution franchise and the player most teams need to plan for when they look to square off against the Revs.
Another anchor in the Revolution midfield this season is Clyde Simms, who was acquired by the Revs in the MLS Re-Entry Draft after he was made available by DC United, where he played for six seasons. Simms has arguably been one of the most important acquisitions that the Revs made in pre-season and has proved to be an absolute necessity on game-day. With impeccable passing and box-to-box tenacity, Simms is habitually the metronome to the Revolution midfield.
Lee Nguyen was another acquisition made by New England in pre-season that has paid dividends thus far. Nguyen has locked down the starting gig at left-midfield (thought he can play basically anywhere in the midfield) and is an offensive catalyst game-in and game-out. The former U.S. International was waived by the Vancouver Whitecaps before the start of the season after only a short pre-season camp with the team. And Jay Heaps and his staff were quick to jump on the midfielder and add him to their arsenal. And now it's hard to imagine the Revolution without him now. Surely all Revs fans will be unanimously hoping that Lee will stay in New England for a long time.
And then of course there is Benny Feilhaber. Benny had a rocky start to the season with a minor injury which sidelined him for a few games as well as a tough time adjusting to playing out wide on the right in the Revs' 4-4-2. But Heaps has since moved Benny in centrally which has allowed the 27-year old to find the freedom to get involved in the attack and thread passes to the forwards, making himself and his teammates a true nuisance to defend against.
Most notably, the Revolution midfield boasts a quality in depth. When Heaps first took over at the helm in the fall of 2011, many thought he was damn near hoarding midfielders. But his collection has illustrated his true intent, to make the Revolution operate with a high-powered engine located in the middle of the field. Many midfielders who aren't necessarily every-game starters have shown to be just as influential as any of the afore-mentioned shoe-ins. Players like Ryan Guy, Fernando Cardenas, and rookie Kelyn Rowe are all real threats and are huge contributors to the Revs' success thus far this season, whether starting or coming in off the bench. Where injuries once used to create a lot of questions for the Revs, they now have the answers and can breathe easy when they are down one or two players.
All in all, New England is still a team in transition. But it is clear where their strength really lies. The goal for the remainder of the season should be consistency--keeping with the Heaps-ian attack-minded, possession-oriented philosophy that has thus far proved to be a prosperous endeavor. And with the Revolution adding some missing pieces up top, they should soon see even more success with players to finish off the numerous chances generated by this high-powered midfield.
Mid-Season Grade: A-