FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Referencing Saturday afternoon’s critical 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact, MLSsoccer.com’s power rankings said New England Revolution captain Jose Goncalves “had perhaps the best game any defender has played in MLS this season.”
I’d say that about sums it up.
But Goncalves’ performance against the Impact was merely a microcosm of his 2013 campaign – a 90-minute glimpse into what the 28-year-old center back has done consistently for the Revolution while playing every minute of every game this season.
Consider what Goncalves did against Montreal – he scored the game-winning goal; he helped shut down MLS leading scorer Marco Di Vaio en route to a league-best 13th shutout; he even made a marauding run forward in the sixth minute of stoppage time to kill the clock by shielding the ball in the corner. Oh, and this was on the road.
Yet no one in the Revs locker room seemed surprised. They’d seen it before.
“Jose, that’s two huge goals on the road for us that he’s scored this year, on top of everything that he does defensively,” said left back Chris Tierney, referencing Goncalves’ 91st-minute game winner in a 2-0 triumph over the Columbus Crew back in July. “He’s been massive for us all year and he was again today.”
But beyond the shutdown defending and beyond the critical goals, perhaps Goncalves’ most important contribution to the Revs has been his leadership. On one of the league’s youngest, most exciting sides, Goncalves is a guiding force both on the field and in the locker room.
That was never more apparent than midway through the first half on Saturday, when Saer Sene suffered a gruesome injury (dislocated left ankle, fractured left fibula) at Stade Saputo. While many on the field visibly struggled to cope with the gravity of the incident, Goncalves stood by Sene’s side as he received medical treatment, then walked alongside, holding his teammate’s hand as he was stretchered off the field.
New England’s captain – an honor bestowed upon Goncalves in just his eighth game with the club – then went about refocusing the rest of the Revs as play resumed, scoring the game-winning goal just minutes later.
“It didn’t take long for him to assume a captain’s role, because he’s a leader,” said head coach Jay Heaps, who called Goncalves “a beast” defensively. “When you have a guy like him and the leader he is on the field, guys respond to that. He doesn’t just do it on the field. He’s off the field, he takes care of himself, he’s the consummate professional, and that, the players feel. So that’s why he wears our captain’s armband.”
And performances like Saturday’s are why he’s a leading candidate for MLS Defender of the Year.