The departure of A.J. Soares can be looked at two ways. One view is to think of it as a dismal situation since Soares was a key contributor in the team’s march to MLS Cup last year. Conversely, the parting does create new openings along the back line that players can seize. Head coach Jay Heaps has adopted the latter mindset as he prepares for his fourth season in charge of the New England Revolution.
Soares’ exit has allowed Andrew Farrell to slide in centrally, a move that has been prophesized ever since the Louisville product entered the league in 2013. Farrell has adjusted well so far, partnering with captain Jose Goncalves.
"Jose has obviously played the position for a while and Farrell, for me, is a natural at that position," Heaps said in a teleconference on Friday. "Both of them have been really good."
Playing center back isn’t exactly new to Farrell as he made ten starts in that position during his sophomore campaign. With Farrell starting in the middle, the Revs were 5-4-1 last season. Farrell also got reps at center back while at Louisville.
The learning curve that Farrell faces has less to do with a new position and more to do with a new partner. In 2014, Farrell paired with Soares six times, Goncalves three times, and Stephen McCarthy once. To help build chemistry, Farrell and Goncalves have been playing together as frequently as possible during preseason.
"I think individually both of them are excellent," Heaps explained. "Now it’s a matter of (creating) that synergy and that relationship continuing to grow. And that takes time."
Farrell’s expected shift inward has created a void at right back, a spot the 22-year-old has made home over the last two seasons. Here too, Heaps sees an opportunity for a player to step up.
"There’s a lot of opportunity in the outside back position," Heaps said. "I think Kevin is versatile enough to play both sides, Darrius is versatile enough to play both sides, and Jeremy Hall has done well in his time in that position as well."