Signed as the New England Revolution's second ever Homegrown Player, Scott Caldwell enjoyed a fine 2014 season from his central midfield position. The former University of Akron standout was in and out of the lineup during the first half of the year, but Caldwell came into the lineup permanently during the playoff stretch and cemented himself as one of the Revs most consistent two-way players.
Additionally, the Braintree, Mass. native could not find the back of the net, but quietly and efficiently got the job done in a multitude of other forms. Often unheralded and absent from media attention, there is every reason to believe that Caldwell should continue to progress under Jay Heaps' tutelage and bring his game to another level. Let's take a look at how things went for Caldwell in 2014 and what the initial outlook is for 2015.
2014: Primarily deployed in the holding midfield role of the Revs' 4-2-3-1 formation, Caldwell allowed those around him to thrive and play to their strengths. His tactical discipline and willingness to hold down the fort provided Lee Nguyen with the license to roam forward and conjure up magic in the attacking third. Quite similarly, sure presence allowed Jermaine Jones to make rangy runs out of midfield and make the most of his athletic ability.
Despite his immense tactical importance, few mentioned Caldwell's name throughout the year. Now, there could be many reasons for this, but the primary explanation is that the 23-year-old goes about his job in a pragmatic manner. Caldwell's play embodies a team-first mentality, as he rarely puts his own aspirations ahead of what will allow the Revs to acquire all three points. Jay Heaps echoed all of these sentiments when he provided Jeff Lemieux with this brief snippet.
Heaps called Scott Caldwell "a coach's dream." Said he's one of the most selfless, team-first players he's ever coached. #NERevs— Jeff Lemieux (@jeff_lemieux) November 26, 2014
As a midfielder, one of Caldwell's calling cards is his ability to pass with precision and link together the defense and offense. To put it lightly, Caldwell did this splendidly throughout the 2014 season. He completed 84% of his passes, which was good for second on the team and only behind Daigo Kobayashi. When broken down, Caldwell completed 888 of his 1,060 pass attempts and the graphic below shows just how good he was when he had the ball.
This chart depicts all of Caldwell's passes from the home 2-2 draw against in the playoffs against the New York Red Bulls. He completed 86 percent of his passes on the day and hardly put a foot wrong. In what was a high-tempo and emotionally charged affair, Caldwell was able to find a rhythm and maintain possession in the center of the park. Now, this is one isolated match from the entire season, but it acts as a microcosm for Caldwell's game as a whole.
He likes to keep things simple, shies away from flair, and opts for the option that will put his team in the best position to threaten their opponent's penalty area. Speaking of simplicity, the below video from that same match reflects Caldwell's purposeful approach.
On the play, Caldwell can be seen collecting a blocked shot, driving at the heart of the New York defense, and spraying a quick ball out wide to Chris Tierney. Tierney then whips it in and Charlie Davies contorts his body to brilliantly head home. There is a lot that happens on the play after Caldwell gets rid of the ball, but it represents why Caldwell is such an integral part of the Revs puzzle.
Nothing Caldwell does on the play is all that creative or difficult, yet he makes the right decision in every instance. He picks out the right ball and puts others in positions to showcase their skill-set, much like he does with Nguyen and Jones, his midfield partners.
While the two aforementioned aspects of Caldwell's game are incredibly important, a slightly lesser known element demonstrates why he is one of the best young central midfielders in the Eastern Conference and MLS as a whole. Many people don't realize it, but Caldwell covers an immense amount of ground throughout the course of a match. The below heat map illustrates just how tireless the Revs "pitbull" is.
That is from the Revs 4-2 away playoff win over Columbus Crew SC, in which the boys in red, white, and blue played the Crew right off the pitch. Integral to that victory was unsurprisingly Caldwell. As his heat map shows, he was all over the place and covered almost every blade of grass on the field. In what was a feisty encounter, Caldwell put in the dirty work in front of the back four, chased down seemingly every lose ball, and shut down the likes of Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, and Federico Higuain.
Considering these three parts of Caldwell's game, it is overly apparent that Caldwell thrived throughout the 2014 season. The Revs' number 6 may have averaged 63.6 minutes over the course of the 31 games he played in in all competitions, but he sure made the most of it. And perhaps best of all, Caldwell avoided the sophomore slump that often plagues second-year players.
2015: Looking ahead to the upcoming MLS season, Caldwell is in a position to grow by further leaps and bounds and make the holding midfield position his. It would be unfair to expect Caldwell to ever push stars such as Jones or Nguyen out of the starting eleven, but he will face stiff competition from the likes of Steve Neumann, Andy Dorman, and Kobayashi for minutes. If Caldwell continues to progress at this rate though, he should earn the lion's share of minutes out of that group.
As Caldwell showed down the playoff stretch, he allows those around him to thrive in their own unique way, and most importantly provides indispensable discipline in front of the back line. The dirty work he puts should continue to merge with his subtly efficient technical ability and incredible tactical awareness.
At this rate, people might just start talking about Caldwell as the man who makes the Revs tick.
All stats used in this article are from Squawka.com.
Have any thoughts on Caldwell? Do you think that he is underrated? Will he burst onto the scene in 2015? Share your thoughts below.