Middle Man: Farrell returns from injury to make 2014 debut in central defense

Second-year defender made 32 starts at right back in 2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Andrew Farrell’s return to the New England Revolution lineup this past weekend came with a bit of a twist.

After making 32 starts at right back during a strong rookie campaign last season, Farrell made his 2014 debut in central defense, partnering A.J. Soares for the Revolution’s 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union. While Farrell played center back for much of his collegiate career and at times this preseason, he admitted there was a readjustment period in the early stages of his 90-minute performance at PPL Park.

“I felt good,” Farrell said. “Just coming into a new spot and playing with guys like A.J., Chris Tierney and Darrius (Barnes) in the back with Bobby (Shuttleworth), they’ve played plenty of times on the backline. They helped me a lot and you could see that.”

Farrell was solid throughout his first professional appearance in central defense, making a game-high 16 clearances and adding five interceptions as the Revs limited the Union to just four shots on target despite conceding a significant edge in possession. The 21-year-old also found success playing out of the back, completing 29 passes while seeing only five miss the mark.

There was perhaps only one real misstep from Farrell, but unfortunately the Union capitalized on that lone occasion to bag the game’s only goal. In the 31st minute, Farrell misjudged his ability to cut off a pass to Leo Fernandes and the Union midfielder used a quick turn to get in behind before feeding Sebastien Le Toux for what proved to be the game winner.

“It was a good, smart play from their player. He shielded the ball well,” said Revs head coach Jay Heaps. “Unfortunately it breaks behind our backline and we’ve got to stay with runners. It was a pretty easy pass once they broke into our 18.”

“That one play I stepped, and they got the goal off of that,” Farrell said. “Just that one mental mistake and it cost us the game.”

Mistakes happen, of course, particularly when a player is returning from a lengthy injury layoff and starting at a new position. But it was how Farrell responded after the mistake – recognizing a similar situation later in the game and adjusting his approach accordingly – which has the Revolution excited about his development.

“Next time, I learned,” Farrell said. “There was a similar play later on, the same exact play. The guys didn’t get down on me, but they tried to lift me up and I did better.”

Farrell’s performance earned praise from Heaps, who said the young defender adapted well to his new role. While Farrell himself was understandably disappointed with the result at PPL Park, he’s already looking forward to the chance to get back on the field this Saturday afternoon when the Revs will host Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the home opener at Gillette Stadium.

“It’s just tough to take some positives from the game,” Farrell said. “But we’re looking forward to the home opener and getting back on our feet.”