Monday, April 02, 2007

2007 Revolution Preview - Defense

The New England Revolution enter the 2007 season on saturday in Chicago a little banged up in the back. Daniel Hernandez is recovering slowly from offseason groin surgery (ouch) and Micheal Parkhurst suffered a freak injury from a wave crashing on him in Cancun (Hey Posidon: go *#&% yourself!). This has forced coach Stevie Nicol to move James Riley to the middle of the backline in our now traditional 3-5-2. The thinness in depth could prove costly early on if there are any more injuries to the defense. Luckily they have two solid defensive midfielders and the league's best keeper to help out. Here's a breakdown on the revolution players who could factor into the goals against average this season:


Jay Heaps: This marks the seventh season in a Revs uniform for the former second overall pick and New Hampshire native. No longer able to rely on his athleticism, the former Duke basketball player has learned to use his wits to sure up the right back position over the last few seasons. This will become increasingly important this season with a fresh crop of rookies that are not quite ready for prime time. He's a starter when healthy, and maybe the most critically important player this year with all the new forwards coming into the league.

Micheal Parkhurst: Started from day one and never looked back. Uses mind over matter and rarely fouls, yet has helped the Revs achieve a superior GAA in each of his two years. His injury may prevent the Revs from getting off to a fast start.

Avery John: The Trinidad & Tobago internation has fallen out of favor with coach Nicol on more than one occasion. Sometimes too quick to go to leave his while defending, but has the ability to mark anyone in MLS effectively. Earned his starting left back position again last summer when James Riley floundered. Rumors of a transfer to Queens Park Rangers proved unfounded, and he's back in the starting lineup for another year.

James Riley: Filling in for Parkhurst is his former teammate at Wake Forrest. He's been used out wide in the midfield and started at left back for a considerable stretch early last season before a few knocks kept him out for a month in the summer. His form never recovered. I'm interested in seeing how well he does in the middle of the defense.

Daniel Hernandez: Another year, another injury nagging DH. Hopefully, Hernandez can come back healthy. Although he's technically a midfielder, he may see some action at central defense if Parkhurst participates in Copa America during the summer. He played that position for a few years in Mexico and has shown his defensive competence in MLS.

Tony Lochhead: One player who has not lived up to his promise is Tony Lochhead. The New Zealand international seems to be getting passed by younger players. Holding a senior international roster spot, one has to wonder how much longer he has with the team?

Amaechi Igwe: Played forward in college, plays defense for the US U-20s ahead of the world championships in Canada this summer. He's a very gifted player who may be a year away from making a big splash in the league.

Gary Flood: This supplemental pick has impressed at central defense during the preseason and almost earned the starting spot when Parkhurst went down. The word is he's very poised in the back almost like a Parkhurst clone. He probably needs a few more months of defending Twellman and Noonan during practice before he's ready for the big time.

Marshall Leonard: Sat out the entire 2006 season with an injury sustained at the end of that playoff classic with the Mutts. I'd be interested if he can earn a starting position back at either left defender of left midfield.

Joey Franchino: Currently on a leave of absense from the team due to personal issues. He could fill in at either left back or defensive midfielder.

Defensive Midfielders

Shalrie Joseph: The best defensive midfielder in the league, bar none. Has the ability to control games and shut down the opposing team's attacking mid. Surprised everyone when he demanded a trade earlier this month. Probably just a negotiating ploy, the Revs will hopefully give him the contract he deserves and nail him down for the rest of his prime.

Jeff Larentowicz: Big Red stepped up last year big time and raised more than a few eyebrows. He'll be starting next to Joseph on opening day. Very composed on the ball, but still needs to improve his marking and passing. Has a battle on his hands for playing time when Hernandez gets healthy. He may be the long term replacement if Joseph leaves.

Ryan Solle: Holding mid may be his best position, but he'll have a hard time cracking this lineup this year. Scouting reports say he is a very skillful passer and makes good decisions.


Matt Reis: For my money, the best keeper in the league. Paid his dues, so when the longtime backup to Kevin Hartman got his chance in 2004, he played like a veteran from the get go. He will be immensely important the first month of the season with some of the top defenders out.

Doug Warren: Doug's an unproven backup who might actually have a fight on his hands for the #2 position.

Brad Knighton: This rookie may overtake Warren for Reis's backup. He impressed during a few outings in the preseason. It'll be interesting to see who plays if Reis is called into US national team duty over the summer.

That's it for the Rev's defensive outlook. I'll preview the attacking players in the next post.

1 Comment:

The Manly Ferry said...

Hey. I notice that you've got my site, It's a Simple Game, listed on the sidebar as a New England Revolution blog. Unfortunately, I've taken an assignment to cover the Columbus Crew for another site and I don't have it in me to focus on two teams. It's a Simple Game will continue as an MLS-focused blog.

So, thanks for linking to me, but I thought it'd be smart and/or fair to let you know I'm making an editorial shift.