In the first half of Saturday's showdown with D.C. United, Chris Tierney went down with a non-contact injury, a universal sign of panic for soccer supporters. Thankfully, Tierney's injury is not considered serious, and the defender is expected to return to action in the not-so-distant future.
In the meantime, Jay Heaps has some lineup shuffling to do. Who should replace Tierney and his magic left foot? Seth and Jake weigh in.
Seth: Donnie Smith
If there's ever a time for Smith, a four-year veteran with the Revolution, it's now. Originally a midfielder, Smith has been slowly transitioning to left back under the tutelage of head coach Jay Heaps and elder statesman Chris Tierney. Giving Smith his first start since Mar. 15, 2014 on short notice might seem a little demanding, but the Revs need someone to provide service from the left flank, an area where they're finding the bulk of their offensive success. The left-footed Smith should be able to provide that.
Do I actually think Smith gets the start? No. Heaps will most likely move Je-Vaughn Watson to the left while utilizing London Woodberry on the right. I could also see Darrius Barnes getting his first minutes since his knee surgery. That said, if there's every a time for Smith, it's now.
Jake: Jose Goncalves vs. Portland, Donnie Smith vs. Orlando City
Chris Tierney being out is not good for the Revolution because his crossing and service into the final third is by far the best in MLS from the left back position. So the Revs need to figure out a way to replicate the width Tierney provides without sacrificing on the defensive end against the defending champions.
So against Portland, I'd give Jose Goncalves his first start at left back in New England. Yes, I know the captain and centerback has been a force in the middle, but hear me out. Je-Vaughn Watson and Andrew Farrell did pretty well in the middle two weeks ago, and London Woodberry is a serviceable option at right back. With the defending MLS Cup Champion Timbers coming to town, Goncalves is probably the best option to replace Tierney's offense in the attacking half and his defensive skill set can help shut down one of the vaunted Timbers attackers. With Darlington Nagbe, Fernando Adi and Lucas Melano among others involved in the Portland attack, this defensive alignment gets the Revs best four defenders on the field and gives them a chance to create some magic on the left flank.
Against Orlando over the weekend, however, I'd like to see Donnie Smith get a shot at left back. He's been with the Revs but has barely played aside from a long stint in Rochester two years ago. With the squad being rotated around a little bit, Smith should get a chance. Like Tierney, he's a converted midfielder and a natural left foot. So while Smith might not be ready to replace Tierney full time, if he isn't ready at this point in his career then you have to question why the Revs are keeping him around.
The Revs host Portland tonight before hosting Orlando City SC on Saturday. Both matches kick off at 7:30 PM ET.