Chris Tierney is back, which is news that could present head coach Jay Heaps with some lineup quandaries.
According to New England Revolution staff writer and online host Jeff Lemieux, Tierney was a full participant in Tuesday's training session. The Massachusetts native has been sidelined since July 26th after suffering a left knee injury while playing against the Columbus Crew. Once fully fit, Tierney will be looking to regain his accustomed left back spot.
This will be no easy task as Darrius Barnes has filled in nobly in Tierney's stead. The versatile defender has helped the Revs earn four consecutive wins during his most recent stretch of starts at left back. The winning record isn't an anomaly as the team is 8-4-1 with Barnes starting at left back this season. In contrast, starting lineups that feature Tierney have accrued a record of 5-11-1.
The major motivation to reintroduce Tierney to the starting lineup is because of his lethal crosses in dead ball situations and from the run of play. On January 8th, Devin Pleuler of MLSSoccer.com revealed that Tierney had been the most accurate free kick taker between 2011 and the time that the article was written.
The Revs could certainly use Tierney as an option as they have only scored directly off a corner kick once despite leading the league with 174 attempts. Kelyn Rowe, who has taken the most corner kicks for the Revs this year, has the only assist as his service found the head of A.J. Soares on July 26th.
Regardless of if he's at the corner flag, Tierney is a scoring threat as he has amassed seven goals and 24 assists during his seven years with the club. The veteran currently has one goal and three assists in 19 appearances this season.
Barnes is more of a stay-at-home defender, something that isn't necessarily a bad thing with creative minds like Rowe, Lee Nguyen and Daigo Kobayashi marshaling he attack. That said, Barnes can push forward as made evident by his one goal and one assist this season.
A conversation about left back options wouldn't be complete without mentioning Kevin Alston. The speediest of the three choices, Alston is having his best offensive season with a goal and assist in only seven games played.
Unfortunately for Alston, the low amount of appearances is due to his ongoing struggles with his hamstrings. Alston, who started in the season opener against the Houston Dynamo, has only contributed three 90 minute performances this year, largely because of reoccurring injuries.
While it's good to have reliable options at left back, Heaps will want to find his optimal lineup as the Revs push towards the playoffs. Fans will watch closely as Heaps is forced to choose between the hot-handed Barnes, the attacking Tierney and the speedy Alston.