Head coach Jay Heaps went with a reserve-laden starting lineup when the New England Revolution faced the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday night. It was a calculated risk that created a dearth of familiarity. Two individuals that new each other well, however, were midfielders Steve Neumann and Tyler Rudy, who played their first professional game together since leaving Georgetown University.
With both players located centrally, Neumann and Rudy saw each other often. The duo worked as a tandem to break things up and limit Charlotte’s chances. Their play during the opening stanza was particularly solid and drew praise from Heaps after the game.
"I thought Steve Neumann and Tyler Rudy had a great first half," Heaps commented, later adding: "I thought Neumann overall had the good consistent night."
Rudy’s evening would come to an end in the 72nd minute as he made way for Scott Caldwell. While the final stats don’t make much of Rudy’s performance (only listing three fouls called, two suffered), Neumann knows how influential his teammate was in his Revolution debut.
"I’m proud of him, I think he had a good solid game in there," Neumann noted. "From what I’ve heard he’s been playing well in Rochester as well so a good first year as a pro for him so I’m proud of him."
As Rudy departed, Neumann stayed, playing a full 90 for the first time since Oct. 16, 2014 when he faced the Houston Dynamo. It was a step in a positive direction for Neumann, who has only amassed 52 minutes this year.
"Practice is what it is," Neumann. "But when you get out in a game situation, there’s nothing that can replicate that. So it was great to get a 90 under my belt."
Though active all over the pitch, Neumann’s best moment of the night came while standing over a dead ball. In the 69th minute, Neumann delivered a free kick that deflected off an Independence defender and nearly ended up in the back of the net, if not for the reflexes of opposing goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap. Had it gone in, it would’ve been Neumann’s second-ever Open Cup tally as the Pennsylvania native scored against the Richmond Kickers last year.
With the Revolution officially out of the Open Cup, playing time for Rudy and Neumann will have to come elsewhere. For Rudy, a loan back to the Rochester Rhinos is likely as he continues to adapt to life as a professional. Neumann is expected to reassume his spot on the bench, fighting for late-game minutes. It’s a fight that could be easier after Wednesday’s showing.