FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The absences of two key figures this weekend will test the New England Revolution’s highly-touted depth at the season’s most critical juncture.
New England will be without both Saer Sene (sidelined for 4-6 months after ankle surgery) and Lee Nguyen (suspended for caution accumulation) for Saturday night’s regular-season home finale against the Columbus Crew, which projects to be a must-win game for the Revs in their quest for a postseason berth.
It’s a situation which leaves the Revolution with voids in both central midfield and on the wing, but rather than view those absences as holes to fill, head coach Jay Heaps sees them as opportunities for others to step up.
“We preach it all week long and all season long that an opportunity will come,” he said. “Maybe it’s week one, maybe it’s week 33, but it’s going to come. And the key is to make sure that we’ve kept the guys motivated up to that point to be ready to take that opportunity, jump in and go for it.”
Perhaps the biggest adjustment will be in central midfield, where the trio of Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe and Scott Caldwell has formed the Revolution’s core for the past 10 matches. Nguyen and Rowe have developed a unique chemistry in the attacking roles, while Caldwell sits in behind to sweep up and facilitate possession.
Nguyen’s absence means the calculus will change against the Crew, but whoever steps in to fill the gap will have Caldwell and Rowe alongside to form a steady foundation.
“The individual strengths are going to change – whoever fills in for them – but as a team we still want to play the same way,” said Caldwell. “We still strive for the same greatness on the field. So I don’t think there’s really a big change as a group.”
A deep roster gives Heaps the luxury of choice as he ponders how to best alter his lineup, but he’s confident the entire squad will be prepared no matter who is called upon Saturday night.
“It will be a player that probably has experience coming into the lineup, but maybe hasn’t gotten the number of reps that they would want; game reps, game speed,” said Heaps. “But the way I look at it is that we’ll have time to train this week and the opportunity’s huge for the players that will step in. I think they’ll be ready.”