A quick glance at the New England Revolution injury report reveals that the Revs are a little thin right now at defensive midfield. Okay, so that link is from Sept. 12th (as of publishing), but the point is New England head coach Jay Heaps might actually have a couple of choices to make regarding his game-day squad this weekend at the Columbus Crew.
Stephen McCarthy has a torn meniscus, Andy Dorman is recovering from an MCL sprain and Jermaine Jones has a foot contusion and didn't practice today. That's a lot of important people who can lineup down the center of Jay Heaps' 4-1-4-1 formation, and if everyone I mentioned above isn't available for the weekend, that would mean going down deep onto the depth chart for a replacement.
Now, New England Soccer Today/ESPN Boston's Brian O'Connell says that Andy Dorman was a full participant in the passing/possession drill during today's practice segment that is open to the media. Certainly Dorman is an option for the bench but we'll take him off the list as well while he gets back to full fitness. Certainly Dorman could be a welcome addition to the match-day squad in the coming weeks however.
Lucky for the Revolution, they have second year, homegrown midfielder Scott Caldwell who can easily step into the starting lineup. But if Jones is out and/or doesn't make the trip, someone is going to have to make the bench in his place.
With McCarthy out, Heaps opted to put two fullbacks on the bench in Chris Tierney and Kevin Alston and in case of an injury, Andrew Farrell or even Darrius Barnes could slide into a centerback position. But with the holding midfield spot, it's not exactly that easy. Since Kelyn Rowe has been lining up on the left flank, Heaps is also short on central midfield type players on the bench.
Heaps can change the starting lineup and drop Kelyn Rowe or Daigo Kobayashi to give himself options off the bench, but let's not fix what isn't broken. I'm basing the following suggestions are going off the most recent starting lineups with only Caldwell going in place of Jones.
Steve Neumann can certainly play the role, and did play the entire second half on Sept. 3rd against Sporting Kansas City after coming on for Jermaine Jones. Neumann has made a lot of appearances off the bench and has proved effective as a utility midfielder despite getting mostly late appearances. Odds are he'll be on the bench no matter what this weekend and the Revs will still need another option to cover the middle of the field.
So in my mind that leaves the Revs with two really interesting options to make the trip to Columbus. The first, is club legend Shalrie Joseph who has not played at all yet this season while dealing with his own injury issues. Joseph is an intriguing option because he is a defensive midfielder and could add that size and physicality off the bench that Jones brings to the lineup. It would be a stark contrast to Caldwell more technical, possession style when perhaps the Revs will need to play more defense late in the game. In Brian's above training report, he notes Shalrie's passes "still have some considerable zip on them."
The second option would be Alec Sundly, fresh off his loan spell with the Rochester Rhinos who lost to Los Angeles Galaxy II in the USL Pro playoffs last weekend. Sundly played over 1700 minutes in 25 appearances with the Rhinos, was a fixture in the starting lineup for much of that. Our resident Rhinos reporter Brendan Doherty says Sundly often played as one of two holding mids in the Rhinos' 4-2-3-1 formation and only rarely played as a lone anchor. Sundly can certainly play the position, but might not be the best option to close out a game. If you haven't already, check out his interview on the Sept. 11th edition of The Midnight Ride Podcast where Doherty talks about the Revs loanees seasons in Rochester and the Rhinos season overall.
If I had to take a guess, I think Heaps would opt to have Shalrie off the bench to close out a game over Sundly. I also have to admit that I'd like to see Joseph get some action during the year and with Lee Nguyen having an MVP-type season there haven't been a lot of opportunities to go around for some of the reserve and fringe players.
Of course, all this thinking could be for naught if Jones is ready to go in any capacity. Wouldn't be the first time Jones has made one of my posts irrelevant a few days after writing it...