At the onset of the 2015 season, Revolution supporters constantly harped on the quality and depth of the club's back line. Will Andrew Farrell adjust? Will the team have coverage if injuries--particularly to Kevin Alston--persist? Will Jose Goncalves build immediate chemistry with a new center back partner? Now 0-2 and searching for an early-season adjustment, the concerns seem valid.
Ahead of Saturday's home opener, our staff reflects on the state of the back line--and offers a few scenarios for the Starting XI.
Hemming: Tierney, Barnes, Farrell, Hall
Without question, the loss of Jose Goncalves throws a wrench in the Revs' homecoming roster. The Portuguese defender will lose valuable "bonding" time with fellow center back Andrew Farrell, pushing back a development process that needs more than two weeks to reach maturity.
In Farrell's place, I expect Darrius Barnes to join the Starting XI. The Revs' vet offers the versatility to slide into a variety of defensive positions, just as he did on Sunday against NYCFC. By placing Barnes in his natural CB position, the Revs will likely benefit from something they've lacked through the first two weeks of play: consistency. The veteran offers the athleticism, speed, defensive aggression and strength over the ball to serve as a dependable replacement for Goncalves.
Unfortunately, an injury to Kevin Alston will likely open up the right back spot, forcing the Revs to use all of their defensive depth on Saturday. I expect newcomer Jeremy Hall to fill the void. Though Hall offers the versatility to step into a variety of positions, he most naturally falls into Alston's right back spot. None of Hall's traits immediately stand out, though the former NYRB defender will deliver steady, if not unspectacular, support out of the back.
Jake: Tierney, Barnes, Farrell, Hall
There's two things that I'm looking forward to in this game. The first is whether or not Barnes is a viable option in the middle going forward; I'm not ready to abandon the Farrell at center back experiment just yet, but a good performance from Barnes will certainly not help matters if Andrew and the back line continue to struggle. Barnes hasn't seen a lot of time at center back in recent years, spending most of his time as a full back and utility defender. In a similar fashion, it's a big game for Jeremy Hall as the veteran makes his debut for the Revs but I see no reason to worry as he's more than capable of starting.
The second is how quickly the Revs might adjust their formation to generate some attack. Chris Tierney is arguably their best attacking option right now and he's stuck at left back, so it may be worth moving to a three-man back line with two wing backs; guys like Tierney and Hall would move a little higher up the field. This would probably mean slotting London Woodberry in as a third center back or asking Andy Dorman to fill-in late in the game. Not ideal moves, but if the Revs are staring 0-3 in the face, it's probably worth the gamble in my mind as well as starting the game with a three-man back line formation.
Seth: Tierney, Woodberry, Farrell, Barnes
There's no question in my mind that Barnes is part of the starting XI this weekend and I'd like to see him positioned at right back. While the Duke product entered the league as a central defender, he's found a lot of success on the outskirts in recent years. Barnes made 21 appearances last season, all as an outside back. These performances were solid and he showed that
he can handle responsibilities on both sides of the ball. That having been said, Barnes has a knack for hitting hard tackles, a flaw that's minimized when he's playing as an outside back.
If Barnes does start at right back, London Woodberry would likely be the man to play alongside Farrell. It's a tall ask for the newcomer, but it's certainly doable. Remember, the 23-year-old is entering his third season as a professional after stints with FC Dallas and Arizona United. While playing in USL last season, Woodberry proved himself as a capable leader and player.