League-best defense boosted by burgeoning Goncalves-McCarthy partnership

Center back duo keeping opponents locked down

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Ask anyone in the New England Revolution organization – player, coach or otherwise – about the club’s sterling defensive record and you’ll get a similar answer.

It’s all about team defending.

Only through the efforts of every player on the field have the Revs limited their opponents to a league-low 14 goals. Everybody has a piece of the club’s league-best 10 shutouts, from the forwards on back. The defense is successful because the team defends as a unit.

But some players are charged with more defensive responsibilities than others; none more so than the burgeoning center back pairing of Jose Goncalves and Stephen McCarthy.

The duo has anchored New England’s backline in each of the last 11 games, guiding the Revs to a 5-2-4 record during that span while conceding just eight goals. It’s a partnership which benefits from both a similar playing style on the field, and a willingness to connect off the field.

“I think we can cooperate very well,” said Goncalves. “We try to play as much as we can from the back – it’s very important for us. We have good communication, not only on the field, but outside the field. We do stuff together. It helps for easy communication.”

Communication has been essential for McCarthy, who admits he’s still gradually learning the center back position after making the transition from central midfield last season. The 24-year-old has benefited from playing alongside a steady leader like Goncalves, particularly after being thrust into the starting lineup following A.J. Soares’ injury in mid-April.

“He’s somebody I can trust fully with any sort of information, so I don’t even have to look sometimes because I can hear him telling me which way to go,” McCarthy said of the Revolution’s captain. “For me, I’m learning from him, taking everything in stride and trying to learn as fast as I can. Positionally he’s always correct and physically he’s just a freak, so all those things just help me to do my job, as well.”

Goncalves also has plenty of praise for McCarthy, who has successfully translated elements of his midfield experience into his new position on the backline. At 6-foot-5, he’s always been a beast in the air, but his calmness and skill on the ball are critical aspects of the Revs’ possession game as they build attacks from the back.

“I think he brings a lot of confidence into the team because he’s playing well,” Goncalves said of his partner. “He had a hard time at the start of the season. He was not in the first 11 and he had to fight for his position. We had some good results, some good games. He was always working hard, waiting for his chance and he got it.

“I think he brings a lot to the team. A lot of confidence, he’s good in the air, good with his feet and he’s very calm. It’s very good for the defense and also for everyone on the team.”