Ask yourself: where would Batman be without Robin and Alfred? Where would Woody and Buzz be without Slinky, RC, Mr. Potato head, and Rex? Well, the answer is that they would probably still be pretty darn successful at fighting crime or being the coolest toys on the block, but it's likely that they wouldn't be as successful without that strong supporting cast.
Most of the hype surrounding the New England Revolution this year has been centered around their dynamic attacking talent, and names like Diego Fagundez, Kelyn Rowe, and Patrick Mullins are on the lips of fans across the country (or at least in New England). Of course, it is only natural that these are the ones receiving credit because people love to see goals and flair. However, a team's success is dependent on whether or not the starting XI is on the same wavelength as the guys coming off the bench. Fortunately for the Revolution, it seems like they are getting it right.
For example, a few games ago against the Philadelphia Union, Brad Knighton stepped in for the injured Bobby Shuttleworth for his first appearance since preseason and did not miss a beat, ultimately playing a large part in the win. A backup keeper with a positive attitude is especially crucial for this team because Shuttleworth has already gone down with a concussion, and thus he's just one play away from staying off the field for weeks. You only need to go back to last year's team to realize the importance of a backup; first Bobby stepped in for Matt Reis and had a banner first half, and then Reis stepped in for Shuttleworth and helped bring the team to the playoffs for the first time in years. Fortunately for the Revolution, Brad Knighton is chomping at the bit, and as evidenced by his performance against Philadelphia, will be ready to go at a moment's notice.
Similarly, Darrius Barnes seems to always be a consistent performer, stepping in at right back while Andrew Farrell moved to center back. This seamless shift along the back four allowed the Revolution to cover for the injured Jose Goncalves, while the team was able to maintain their defensive robustness and shape.
Scott Caldwell is another one who consistently performs at a high level off of the bench despite losing his starting role to Andy Dorman at the beginning of the year. Whether he comes on to try and spark the offense or sit in behind the midfield to protect the goal, this 23-year old always ready to play.
Steve Neumann, this year's fourth overall pick in the draft, has yet to break into the starting lineup and has had to watch his fellow rookie teammate, Patrick Mullins, shine in the spotlight. However, there is never discontent on his face and he has been patiently waiting to break into the team's starting lineup. From a game-saving goal-line clearance to showing his class in the middle, he has managed to play within himself, never trying to do too much.
The skillful and attack-minded veteran Daigo Kobayashi has been making his best case to be in the starting XI, dishing out assists and dominating the midfield alongside Lee Nguyen and Andy Dorman, but humbly makes way off the pitch for his teammates around the 60th minute. Whether or not he retains his starting spot, his consistency in the middle of the park gives the Revolution a dynamic option that can be utilized all season.
This positive and always ready attitude seen throughout the team is not something that goes unnoticed, and is absolutely critical if this team wants to succeed along the road. The season is long, and inevitably there will be personal problems, distractions, injuries, suspensions, trades, and drops in form. These kinds of fluctuations are just part of the game's DNA, and it is important to recognize that the teams who fail are those who cannot deal with these kind of changes. The Revolution are currently experiencing one of those dips in form, but despite falling short of a win the past two games, they still remain in first place in the Eastern Conference. The stars of the team have been shining and, going into a break, it is crucial that the supporting cast can help restore the squad to its winning ways.