Head coach Jay Heaps made a bold decision on Saturday when he chose to start Daigo Kobayashi over Teal Bunbury. The switch put Kobayashi, Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe in the same starting lineup for only the second time this year. Although the first instance ended in a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake, the three creative midfielders were able to harmonize against Chivas USA in a match that could serve as a preview of things to come.
With Kobayashi, Nguyen and Rowe all in the starting eleven, there were questions of how the trio would line up. When the whistled blew, Kobayashi and Nguyen operated centrally while Rowe played on the right side, opposite of Diego Fagundez.
The adjustment is something that Rowe is more than willing to do because, as he told media after the game, he just "wants to play." He did admit, however that the move requires a change in mindset.
"You just got to stay wide a little," Rowe enlightened. "I found myself coming in a lot, trying to find the ball and the guys gave it me every once and awhile. It was good. I think we connected well."
In the center, Nguyen and Kobayashi have formed a dangerous partnership after starting together on 13 occasions. The likeminded creators played alongside each other during the Revolution's seven-game unbeaten run. In their first season playing together, Kobayashi and Nguyen have already developed quite the chemistry.
"I love playing with (Daigo Kobayashi)," Nguyen said. "We're on the same wavelength. He doesn't speak much English, but I feel we've been playing together for a long time. He's very smart, very composed and can keep possession in tight spaces so I think that help us out."
Kobayashi, Nguyen, Rowe and Fagundez didn't remain in their starting positions for long as they frequently swapped in an effort to dupe defenders and create opportunities. This preplanned tactic comes naturally for all four attacking midfielders as they've played together often and know each other's strengths.
The familiarity among the midfielders was on display in the second half when Rowe, Kobayashi and Nguyen combined to create the game's only goal. Rowe played a pass to Kobayashi, who returned the favor with a nifty backheel. After beating a defender, Rowe moved the ball to Nguyen, who scored a beautiful curler.
More than a game-winner, the goal could be a harbinger of things to come.
"I think we're still getting use to each other with spacing and whatnot, but playing with Daigo and Lee is kind of easy," Rowe stated. "You know they're going to get the ball in a great spot, you know they're going to turn and look for you. Today, just as a preview, I think we had a really good game today."