The game-day roster for New England Revolution’s season opener provided Revs fans with their first real glimpse into the thinking of head coach Jay Heaps. While it was only one game, there’s a lot that can be learned from looking at who Heaps picked to face the Houston Dynamo.
The gaffer opted to start Diego Fagundez and Teal Bunbury on the flanks, likely because of their solid preseason performances. In the middle, Kelyn Rowe was given the nod as Scott Caldwell worked his way back towards full fitness. Defensively, Je-Vaughn Watson, a newly-signed veteran, beat out Darrius Barnes, London Woodberry, and Jordan McCrary for the right back spot.
While all of these decisions were interesting and debatable, the most intriguing judgements can be made about the players who did and didn’t make the bench.
As expected, backup goalkeeper Brad Knighton was on the sideline. The inclusion of jack-of-all-trades Darrius Barnes, reigning team MVP Scott Caldwell, dynamic attacker Juan Agudelo, and crafty midfielder Daigo Kobayashi can also be viewed as no-brainers. Expect all four of these players to start games this year, perhaps coming as soon as this Saturday.
London Woodberry’s presence is worth talking about, if only because it led to the omission of McCrary. Going into the season, some believed that McCrary, drafted 10th overall, would be an automatic starter. This wasn’t to be, however, as McCrary didn’t even make the game-day 18.
This is likely due to Woodberry’s experience and attacking abilities. The 24-year-old defender made 18 starts in 2015, which is proof that Heaps trusts him. He also collected two assists while constantly being a threat on the right side. McCrary could certainly work himself up the depth chart, but it appears that he will start the season as the third-choice right back.
Gamble, another 2016 draftee, also failed to make the bench. The attacker looked sharp throughout preseason, even tallying a goal in the Desert Diamond Cup. Gamble’s exclusion is due to the team’s wealth of attackers. In fact, it’s hard to imagine that the Wake Forest product gets much time this year, which could mean a loan to the Rochester Rhinos.
While it makes sense to leave out the rookies, it's curious to see Steve Neumann left out. Originally drafted fourth overall in 2014, Neumann is in a make or break year. The third year player appeared in 23 games during his freshman season, but only played in nine games in 2015. Will Neumann make an impact this year?
The same question can be asked about Sporting CP loanee Sambinha. The defender didn’t inspire a lot of confidence during preseason, but he does have the size and pedigree to be a serious contributor. Will it happen? Time will tell.
One player that could be primed to do big things is Zachary Herivaux. Signed as the team’s third-ever Homegrown in 2015, Herivaux’s only appearance thus far came as a late substitute in a US Open Cup game. The 20-year-old has started the new season in a positive way as he was included on the game-day roster.
Yes, last Sunday’s game against the Dynamo was just one of 34 and things can certainly change, but the roster used on that day does serve as an indicator of the Revs’ current depth chart. So far, it looks like McCrary, Gamble, Neumann, and Sambinha have some work to do in order to get onto the field.