With Je-Vaughn Watson and Gershon Koffie no longer suspended because of their respective red cards, Jay Heaps has an interesting selection decision to make when Toronto FC visits Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The right back and holding midfielder could be perceived as virtual starting locks for the New England Revolution, but an argument could be equally presented for their exclusion. After all, London Woodberry and Kelyn Rowe admirably provided cover in last weekend's 1-0 win over New York Red Bulls. To boot, that result was the club's first win of the 2016 campaign.
Mindful of that conundrum, our staff weighs in on some different directions Heaps could go in.
Jon Sigal: The right back portion of this puzzle isn't as straightforward as it appears. Yes, Watson provides a veteran presence and is more athletic than Woodberry, but his inclusion would disrupt a unit that just shutout the likes of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan. Contrastingly, the Revs allowed seven goals in four games when Watson started. None of that is to say Watson is a poor player, as his signing was shrewd, but this team needs continuity desperately. The nod goes to Woodberry, folks.
The quandary about Rowe or Koffie has an easy solution. Rowe is not a holding midfielder and will likely struggle in containing Michael Bradley and Giovinco this weekend if tasked with more defensive duties. On the other hand, Koffie's unwavering desire to sniff out danger and disrupt the Reds' passing rhythm is perfect for reigning in the U.S. national team stalwart and reigning MVP. Heaps likely recognizes this and will push Rowe out to the wing in favor of the more natural Koffie.
Seth Macomber: For a defender, it's a good sign when people don't remember your performance. Such is the case for Woodberry, who put in two solid shifts as a stand-in for Watson. Woodberry wasn't a game-changer, but he certainly didn't do anything to hurt the Revolution. That said, Watson is a veteran who was the frontrunner to win the team's Defender of the Year award before his ill-advised tackle. Although getting a red card wasn't smart, it shouldn't spell the end of Watson's time a right back. The former FC Dallas man has an incredible motor that allows him to contribute on both sides of the ball. While Woodberry is the future of the position, Watson is the present.
Rowe as a holding midfielder looked better the second time around, but it still didn't feel right. There were times on Friday when Rowe's positioning and passing were spot on. In other moments, Rowe found himself too sucked into the play or unable to move the ball efficiently enough. With this in mind, Koffie should regain his spot alongside Caldwell. The two true defensive midfielders are still building chemistry and the more reps they get, the better.
What are your thoughts? Who do you think was a better offseason signing? Are Woodberry and Rowe solid replacements? Share your thoughts below!