It wasn't pretty, but the Revs pulled it off. Three points against the Colorado Rapids, hot damn! I'll take it! It seems clear to me that the fans weren't the only ones angry about the result against the Red Bulls. Wednesday night, the Revolution took the pitch with their game faces on, and they stayed on for 90 minutes.
As others have postulated, A.J. Soares and Stephen McCarthy might just be one of the better center back pairings in Major League Soccer come October. Soares is quite clearly worthy of being in the national team conversation even with only a year under his belt. McCarthy may not be quite there, but it seems to me that Jay Heaps' plan just may be to let that quality rub off on McCarthy. And I think it's working.
On the subject of defense, I was glad to see Darrius Barnes get some playing time, even if it was only as a replacement for an apparently very ill Kevin Alston. If you'll recall, I was calling for Heaps to explore his other options on defense in my last Hangover writing. This isn't quite what I was talking about, but Barnes got some solid playing time nonetheless, and I think that he played quite well. What I liked about Barnes in this game was his positioning and awareness. Darrius made some good runs forward, but more importantly, he maintained his defensive responsibilities with consistency. I've said before that I believe Alston leaves McCarthy exposed at times, leading to unfortunate one-on-one situations for the midfielder-turned-defender. With Barnes in at right back, that didn't seem to be the case. Assuming that Alston is still sick into the weekend, I'm looking forward to seeing Barnes get his first start of the season and showing Heaps more of what he brings to this squad.Bjorn Runstrom just cannot seem to get the ball. It's so hard to tell if he is just unlucky or if he's not working hard enough. The effort appears to be there, but then he just disappears. He hasn't really found himself on the end of passes or crosses, he hasn't set up any opportunities for anyone, he hasn't really done much of anything. But yet coach Heaps clearly wanted to get him to New England, which became apparent when the deal got done even after Runstrom's agent said that the Revs' "final offer" was dead. My theory? Runstrom needs a start. And considering how poor Jose Moreno's performance was on Wednesday, I'd say this Saturday against Real Salt Lake is as good a time as any. Let's see what he can do with at least 45 minutes. My bet is that we'll see something to be excited about--just a hunch.
Fernando Cardenas has now done the one thing that Lee Nguyen hasn't yet; he scored a goal. And what a beauty of a goal it was. Now, I'm not saying that he should replace Nguyen in the midfield. I'm just saying that when you compare the two, Cardenas would appear to have made more of an impact with basically a fraction of the minutes that Nguyen has had. So, what am I getting at? Well, my hope is, for one, that Cardenas gets rewarded with more minutes and more starts, but also that his latest performance lights a fire under Nguyen and indeed others like Kelyn Rowe, Ryan Guy, and Benny Feilhaber to step up. Jay Heaps' midfield is built to possess and attack. Cardenas does that. And he'll do it more if given the further opportunity. With such quality depth, Heaps has the fortunate situation of being able to play the hot hand if he so chooses. I, for one, think that would be the right call.
Speaking of Benny Feilhaber, I feel like we've got a hung jury regarding his game Wednesday night. I for one think that Feilhaber played perhaps his best game yet in 2012. He was commanding both on defense and on the attack, he was fit, and he just generally looked hungry out there. But I feel like you could also argue that Feilhaber was flighty and erratic, too. I maintain that Benny needs to be in the center of the midfield. Anywhere else and he's just not going to be in his prime. I mean, he's going to be a quality player no matter where you put him, but Benny in the middle is where Benny goes into beast mode, stringing together precise passes and setting up appetizing through balls to the forwards. That's where I want him. I hope that Heaps can find a way to get that Feilhaber magic flowing again, even if that's out wide.
To wrap things up, I think the pieces are coming together for this team. And more will fall into place in time. The task at hand is finding the right rhythm--the one that works. It's perhaps the hardest mountain to climb for any team. But the Revs have started climbing, so it's only a matter of time. The question that remains is: how big is the mountain?