There are a number of positional battles for the New England Revolution this year, the most intriguing of which is happening at right back.
With A.J. Soares now plying his trade in Norway, Andrew Farrell has shifted to the middle, leaving a vacancy at right back. The two frontrunners for the position are Jeremy Hall and Kevin Alston, though Darrius Barnes is a fine option as well.
There isn’t a lot that separates Hall and Alston at this point as both players can be described as steady veterans. That said, both players have made missteps this preseason and unfortunately it's the blunders that tend to be most memorable when it comes to defenders.
In the team’s first game of 2015, Hall offered a hospital ball to goalkeeper Brad Knighton. Reading the play well, a Real Salt Lake player regained possession, ultimately helping his team get on the score sheet.
Alston was guilty of a similar mishap in the Revolution’s game against the Colorado Rapids. Early in the second half, Alston unsuccessfully challenged for a header, allowing the ball to get to Gabriel Torres. The Panamanian got by Jose Goncalves before scoring the game’s first goal.
These mistakes happen, especially in preseason, and neither can be viewed as especially egregious. More than anything, these gaffes can be attributed to a lack of sharpness that comes along with a new season.
Still, a right back needs to be chosen.
The modern game dictates that a right back must be able to get into the attack. Unfortunately, this requirement creates no clarity in regards to this particular positional battle. Using the game against the Seattle Sounders as our case study, Alston and Hall showed equal offensive abilities.
Hall displayed his attacking prowess in the first half when he made a sneaky run forward that was spotted by Diego Fagundez. The opportunity nearly led to a goal, but it wasn’t to be.
Alston made a similar run in the second half which did earn a tally. The 26-year-old was put behind the defense by Barnes. After receiving the ball, Alston sent in a cross that was pushed into the back of the net by a Seattle Sounders defender.
As you can see, the right back position is still an open battle. Both Hall and Alston have solid cases for being in the starting lineup against the Sounders on Mar. 8. Both players also have their shortcomings. Adding Barnes to the mix, who accumulated a record of 10-5-1 when starting last year, only complicates matters. With this in mind, it will be interesting to see who coach Jay Heaps turns to when the regular season begins.