Ever since the 2013 season, Jose Goncalves has been a staple of the New England Revolution. One match away from his 100th start for head coach Jay Heaps' side, the Portuguese center back's guile and physicality are typically reassuring presences, home or away.
However, the 30-year-old former MLS Defender of the Year's longevity took a knock this past Sunday against the LA Galaxy, as he exited he pitch in the 77th minute in serious discomfort. It has since surfaced that Goncalves is nursing a rib injury, and Heaps said after Tuesday's training session that the defensive leader isn't definitively ruled out of this Saturday's home contest against the Chicago Fire.
With Goncalves' status up in the air, Andrew Farrell, his partner in the heart of defense, has the utmost confidence in New England's depth should the former not reach full fitness.
"We have the guys who can step in with Darrius [Barnes], [Sambinha], Je-Vaughn [Watson] in the middle, London [Woodberry]," Farrell said. "It seems like we have a lot of guys who can step in. If Jose isn't good to go, someone's got to step and we've got to get three points on the weekend."
That quest for three points has reason for hope, as Goncalves missed New England's April 17 away draw versus Orlando City, with Watson slotting centrally from his normal right back position. The Jamaican international held his own against Orlando's Kaka and Julio Baptista, and, if called upon, would likely go against Chicago's Kennedy Igboananike and Gilberto this weekend.
However, Watson urged that he doesn't concern himself with the reputation of his adversaries, and is welcoming of wherever Heaps deploys him.
"I'm just open-minded because [the Revolution] bring me here to play and wherever they want me to play, I'm just willing to go," Watson said. "As a professional player, you're always open-minded of wherever you want to play. The task is not too big, because we've been doing this for a long time, just playing the game."
While Goncalves has long been one of the Eastern Conference's elite defenders, a change along the backline could bring about a certain level of solidarity that's sorely been lacking. New England has posted only two shutouts in 11 games, has allowed three goals or more four times and has a league-worst 1.82 goals against average.
Nonetheless, the fact of the matter remains that Goncalves is New England's captain and his leadership qualities would be sorely missed should his rib injury be long-term. If Goncalves is good to go or not, Farrell emphasized it'll be time to "man up" and secure three points.
Watson, a likely starter on Saturday regardless of position, echoed those sentiments.
"It's not a good feeling from my point to be here and we're not winning games because I'm new to the team," Watson said. "We have to do what we have to do to start winning games, and I don't like the spot that we're in. Anything it takes to win games. If I'm going to have to break my neck, break a leg of whatever, I got to do it."