Man, doesn't it feel good to have such meaningful matches this late in the season? It'd feel much better we had our preferred lineup and formation.
Saturday's win in Montreal saw the New England Revolution lose Saer Sene to season ending injury and Lee Nguyen to yellow card accumulation. This creates quite the conundrum for Jay Heaps in a do or die match with huge playoff implications. Do we maintain the 4-1-4-1? How do we rearrange the puzzle pieces? Who fills the void left by these two healthy contributors?
Note: Most of Tierney's play has been at left back this year
It's pretty clear to see who's done the heavy lifting around here, and I bet you totally forgot that Donnie Smith started at left midfield in the season opener. Yikes! Combined, Saer Sene and Lee Nguyen have accounted for nine goals and eleven assists in the 2013 campaign. This is not production that can be replaced easily.
More concerning is the possible disruption to chemistry and flow that has developed ever since Coach Jay Heaps slid Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe into the middle alongside each other, which has yielded consistent results. In early May, Heaps moved Diego Fagundez and Saer Sene to outside midfield, which created space for the tiny Rowe and Nguyen to possess, operate and distribute. Anchoring this duo was no giant, but Scott Caldwell at CDM. Did anyone think a central midfield that weighs a combined 450 lbs. would be on the cusp on the playoffs in the "physical" world of Major League Soccer?!
YOUR MISSION: Use the chart data above to help figure out the best solution to replace LM and CM.
We all know Chris Tierney can play left mid. His crosses can be lethal and he's simple and smart on the ball. To employ this solution Heaps will likely install Kevin Alston at left back where had been earning minutes before illness took him off the pitch.
PRO: Maintains 4-1-4-1. Alston is a speed demon and is not easily out paced. He's tough on the ball and has been chomping at the bit to contribute. Caldwell is a CAM by trade and it keeps him along side Rowe.
CON: Tierney can get one dimensional at times and his trusty left footed solution can be easily shut down. Simms can get lost in games sometimes.
WILDCARD: Are Ryan Guy or Juan Toja healthy? Is Andy Dorman the right option?
The Jake Solution: Agudelo LM, Imbongo ST, Toja CM
Agudelo has played wide for the Revs before and Imbongo has been a catalyst as of late and worthy of minutes. Does Toja, who has seen minimal minutes of late, deserve a start? Can he be effective?
PRO: You leave the defense in tact. You get two dynamic attackers on the field simultaneously in Imbongo and Agudelo. Toja can assume some of Nguyen's ball possession role.
CON: Imbongo could put your down a man early with a silly red. Toja may not be able to go 70-90 minutes and Agudelo is taken out of the position he's most lethal at.
WILDCARD: Will Jerry Bengtson be ready to provide fresh legs if Agudelo and Imbongo are fading?
The Steve Solution: Agudelo LM, Imbongo ST, Caldwell CM, Simms CDM
As Jake mentioned above, Agudelo has played wide before this season, but what he did not mention is that Juan was still quite effective in that role. In fact, it's where he spent a good chunk of time in his first few appearances, including the 2-0 victory over Houston. On a good day, Imbongo is a hold-up machine, Caldwell will do just fine in a slightly more advanced role, and Simms can provide excellent defense and a steadying presence in front of the defense.
PRO: This arguably keeps your most dangerous players on the field. Caldwell's passing keeps the team ticking and Agudelo can still attack effectively from wide, swapping with Diego and Imbongo at will. Also, Toja stays off the field.
CON: Like Jake said, this still takes Agudelo out of his best spot. Imbongo can be a liability, and while Caldwell played an attacking role in college, he hasn't done that as a pro. Simms' willingness to cover for everyone on the pitch can sometimes be a liability, and his passing, while tidy, is very negative.
In closing, the Revs do have options and they all require tinkering with a delicate system. It will be interesting to see what squad Heaps employs Saturday. We could be praising his wisdom or cursing him for ending the season.
Do you have a better solution? Share it below in the comment section or call the Front Office and share it with them.
See you all in the Fort Saturday night.
More from The Bent Musket:
- Midfield Dilemma: Analyzing Heaps' Solutions vs Crew
- Breakers' Forward Kyah Simon Loaned to Western Sydney Wanderers
- United States 3, Panama 2 - 2013 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Recap - We're Really Sorry Panama
- USA vs. Panama 2013 - Lineups and Live Thread
- USA vs. Panama 2013: World Cup Qualifying Preview - Klinsmann's Midfield Depth