FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When a team struggles defensively, much of the criticism falls on the backline and the goalkeeper. When a team struggles to score goals, the natural reaction is to lay blame on the forwards. The Revs certainly did both in 2011 en route to the second-worst goal differential in the league (minus 20), so improvements in both defense and attack are of paramount importance this offseason.
But where does that leave the midfield, the group of players most heavily involved in both aspects of the game?
Today, we analyze the midfield situation on the Revolution’s current roster and take a closer look at which areas could use strengthening ahead of the 2012 campaign.
Left Midfielders (Zak Boggs, Benny Feilhaber, Ryan Guy, Ryan Kinne, Kenny Mansally, Chris Tierney, *Danleigh Borman, *Monsef Zerka)
While not every player on this list is a natural left-sided midfielder, the Revs clearly have an abundance of players capable of playing on the left side.
Monsef Zerka’s first three appearances were as a right midfielder after signing with the Revs in mid-August, but the French-born Moroccan started the final four games of the 2011 season on the left side of midfield, proving his versatility on the wing. But Zerka’s contract option for 2012 was declined and New England is currently in talks to bring the 30-year-old back on a new deal, leaving his future in Foxborough presently unresolved.
Chris Tierney spent much of last season filling in on the left side of defense, but also made 12 starts at his more preferred left midfield position and found success with his service, both from the run of play and set pieces. Ryan Guy also made the occasional appearance on the left side, but finished the season as the Revolution’s starting right midfielder.
Also seeing time at left midfield last season were Kenny Mansally (three starts) and Benny Feilhaber (two starts), but Mansally was used more often as a forward and Feilhaber appeared more settled in a central role.
Although used sparingly at the position in 2011, both Zak Boggs and Ryan Kinne are also capable of playing on the left wing, while Danleigh Borman – currently weighing a Bona Fide Offer after the Revs selected the 25-year-old in Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Process – would likely see more time on the backline but can also play in midfield.
Central Midfielders (Benny Feilhaber, Shalrie Joseph, Stephen McCarthy, *Clyde Simms)
The duo of Feilhaber and returning captain Shalrie Joseph was the clear-cut choice in the center of the Revolution’s four-man midfield at the end of last season, and the pair will be expected to be significant contributors once again in 2012. Feilhaber led the team with seven assists and pitched in four goals, while Joseph was the leading scorer with eight goals and one assist.
Stephen McCarthy returns for his second year after a promising rookie campaign was cut short by a recurring shoulder injury, which ultimately required season-ending surgery in mid-September. Prior to the procedure, McCarthy made 21 appearances (18 starts) and occasionally paired with Feilhaber and Joseph when the Revs used a three-man central midfield.
Gone are Pat Phelan and Andrew Sousa, but the Revolution hopes to replace them with former D.C. United midfielder Clyde Simms after selecting the 29-year-old in Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Process. Simms spent the past seven seasons in D.C., making 182 appearances as a defensive midfielder.
Right Midfielders (Zak Boggs, Diego Fagundez, Ryan Guy, Ryan Kinne, Sainey Nyassi, *Monsef Zerka)
Guy emerged as the top choice on the right side of midfield toward the end of 2011 after spending months on the bench following his June signing, and Revolution fans will be excited to see his progress in 2012. The aforementioned Zerka also saw time on the right wing late last season before switching to the left side, giving the Revs a pair of versatile options should he return.
Sainey Nyassi was the Revolution’s primary right winger from 2008-10, but saw his playing time decrease in 2011 as the 22-year-old struggled with injuries and scored just one goal in 21 appearances (eight starts). Head coach Jay Heaps – who played with Nyassi from 2007-09 – has stated he hopes to see more from the young Gambian in 2012 and has indicated Nyassi could be afforded more freedom to roam.
Although all six of his appearances began at the forward position, teenage sensation Diego Fagundez did appear briefly on the right wing following late-game substitutions in 2011, while he was often used as a midfielder during his time with the Revolution’s Academy teams.
Boggs returns for a third season in New England after making 10 starts on the right wing in 2011, while Kinne also has the versatility to play on the right side.