An hour before kickoff, the New England Revolution released a starting lineup that raised a few eyebrows. With Jose Goncalves (left calf), Chris Tierney (left ankle), and Darrius Barnes (left knee) struggling with injuries, Jermaine Jones started at center back while London Woodberry was deployed on the right. How would the Revs, who entered the game on a streak of 366 minutes without conceding a goal during the run of play, cope?
The absence of Goncalves was a big one as former MLS Defender of the Year also serves as the team’s captain. Losing such a rock would be devastating to most teams, but not the Revs, who had a perfect replacement in Jones.
"[I felt] very comfortable—I mean, Jermaine is the starting center back for our national team most games," head coach Jay Heaps told media after the game.
Putting in his first 90-minute performance since undergoing successful sports hernia surgery in the offseason, Jones deputized well playing alongside Andrew Farrell. More than a defensive presence, Jones, who donned the captain's armband, served as a motivator on the field.
"I thought he organized well," Heaps said of his Designated Player. "[He] led the group. You know his voice at halftime was well-received and I thought he led the group in the second half, even from back there. He was on his game."
Moving Jones to center back was a logical move since he has played the position at a high level. The conundrum at right back was a more curious one as it had no clear answer.
Jeremy Hall is a versatile veteran who contributed significant minutes at right back this preseason. Heaps could have also opted to move Kevin Alston to the right with Donnie Smith serving as the left back. Ultimately, it was Woodberry who received the nod.
Although it would be his first MLS start since June 18, 2013 when he went 90 for FC Dallas in a 4-2 loss to the Seattle Sounders, Woodberry looked more than comfortable battling against the likes of CJ Sapong and Conor Casey. The right back earned plenty of plaudits from his teammates after the game.
"I was most impressed with London Woodberry," Charlie Davies said. "To come in and really dominate the right side – you know, no one was even nervous with him on the field, he did a fantastic job for us."
The highest praise of the night came from Teal Bunbury, who was named the Santander Man of the Match after scoring one goal and registering an assist. If Bunbury had it his way, however, the honor would have been bestowed on Woodberry.
"A big congrats to London," Teal Bunbury commented. "His first start back there – he was unbelievable to me. He was the man of the match, nonstop winning balls and playing great balls out of the back."
So how did the Revolution do with their shuffled lineup? Let’s just say they are now on a streak of 456 minutes without conceding a goal from the run of play.