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Coach Heaps Faces an Important Choice at Left Back

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Chris Tierney has been ruled out of Wednesday's game with a sprained left MCL. Coach Heaps will have an important choice to make at left back with Darrius Barnes and Kevin Alston serving as the front runners.

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

When Chris Tierney fell to the turf during the New England Revolution's game against the Columbus Crew, fans got a bad feeling in their stomachs. After all, Tierney, who made his 150th appearance on Saturday, has a reputation as a hardnosed player that doesn't fake injuries. In the 21st minute, it was decided that the Massachusetts native wouldn't be able to carry on. Tierney has since been placed on the injury report with a left MCL sprain.

The exact extent of Tierney's injury is unknown, but any amount of time that the left-footed player misses will affect the team. Operating as the Revolution's first-choice left back, Tierney provides accurate service, staunch defending and vital leadership.

"Chris (Tierney) was a big loss for us because he helps us offensively a lot," head coach Jay Heaps said in Saturday's press conference. "While he works hard defensively, it is his offensive technique that spreads the game for us and helps us get forward."

Over the course of 1536 minutes this year, Tierney has produced one goal and three assists. His width play is particularly valuable when opponents are clogging the center of the field. Tierney distinguishes himself in dead ball situations as he's a prime candidate to take any type of set piece.

"Tierney is obviously a very important player for us: his service, his positioning, everything," Bobby Shuttleworth said after the game against the Crew. "That being said, we have a lot of players that can step in. It's obviously a big blow for us, but it's part of the game and you need to keep on ticking."

Darrius Barnes was selected to replace Tierney on Saturday and he could get the start on Wednesday. The Revolution were 3-1-0 last year when Barnes started at left back, allowing only one goal. This year, Barnes has showcased his versatility during his 13 appearances.

His most recent appearance was underwhelming as Barnes was at least partially responsible for both of Columbus' goals. The 27-year-old committed a foul on Ethan Finlay that led to Federico Higuain's free kick beauty. Later, Barnes was unable to stop Finlay, who scored the game's winner.

Barnes is a steady player has a defense-first mentality. If Heaps wants a more attacking presence at left back, he could give Kevin Alston the nod.

In his four starts this year, Alston has tormented opponents with his pace on the flank. On April 12th, the sixth year player scored his first career goal against the Houston Dynamo. One week later, Alston earned a penalty kick when he was clipped by the Chicago Fire's Patrick Nyarko.

The primary drawback to Alston is that he has struggled recently with injuries, specifically his hamstrings. Alston has been forced to make pre-halftime exits twice this year. In fact, Alston has only contributed a 90 minute shift once this season. He played the full game against the Dynamo, but earned an 89th minute red card against the Fire a week later.

Whether it's Barnes, Alston or a surprise choice, the decision of who starts at left back will be an important one when the Revs take on the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night.