Lechner shines in unplanned appearance off the bench
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps always has a plan. On Saturday in Toronto, that plan didn’t call for playing Flo Lechner.
But as is often the case in professional sports, the plan changed instantaneously when Kevin Alston went down with a left hamstring injury late in the first half at BMO Field. Lechner – himself recently sidelined for more than two months with a broken bone in his right foot – was summoned off the bench to make his first league appearance since April 5.
“He’s still coming back from injury, so we weren’t 100 percent wanting to play him just yet, but we were hoping to get him a game soon,” Heaps said of his German right back. “He came in and I thought he did stellar.”
Lechner entered in the 40th minute and was solid throughout the second half, working hard defensively and frequently involving himself in the attack with overlapping runs down the right side. With the Revolution’s typically narrow midfield play, the outside backs are relied upon to provide much of the width, and Lechner noted Toronto FC’s similarly narrow shape permitted his frequent forays into the attack.
“Against Toronto it was perfect for us outside backs because they play a small diamond and you have a lot of space on the outside,” Lechner said. “When you have the space, you should take it and I took it.
“One outside back should [always be] up helping the midfielders get the ball into the box,” he added. “Most goals are scored in the box. That’s the point.”
Both outside backs were actually up when the Revs scored their dramatic equalizer deep into stoppage time of the eventual 2-2 draw, as Lechner’s driven cross found left back Chris Tierney open for a header near the penalty spot. It was an unusual occurrence for one outside back to cross for the other to head home inside the box, but having thrown numbers forward late in the game, the Revs won’t worry too much about the particulars.
“It was tactically not right because both outside backs shouldn’t be up, but now it doesn’t matter for us,” Lechner said with a laugh.
After a significant layoff, Lechner said he continues to regain his fitness each day in training and noted his 50 minutes of action at BMO Field only helped quicken his progression. With Alston facing a potential spell on the sideline – the 24-year-old was listed as “out” on Tuesday’s injury report – Lechner is fully prepared to continue in the right back role as a starter if called upon.
“For me, I try to give my best,” he said. “When Jay said I’d play [in Toronto], I’ll play. It’s good for me. I’m happy. Everybody wants to play every game, but only 11 can play. When I have the spot, it’s good for me.”