FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The decision to reinsert captain and reigning MLS Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves into the Revolution’s starting lineup for last weekend’s 2-1 win over D.C. United wasn’t as straightforward as it may seem.
The Revs went 4-0-1 during the five-game stretch Goncalves was sidelined with a right quad strain, registering two shutouts in the process. Chemistry had developed between the center-back pairing of Andrew Farrell and A.J. Soares, while Darrius Barnes and Chris Tierney had been steady holding down the fullback positions.
Head coach Jay Heaps called shuffling that backline the “toughest decision of the short season so far,” but ultimately decided the matchup with a physical D.C. side and the prospect of receiving a boost from the return of the club captain was reason enough to get Goncalves back onto the field.
“Who do you take out? It’s not an easy one,” said Heaps, who shifted Farrell to right back as Barnes made way. “The conversation was about what was going to be better for us tactically [against D.C.]; it wasn’t about just getting Jose back.
“I thought we needed a little uptick from some senior leadership because that’s what he does so well. If you’re ever worried about complacency, go in the locker room 10 minutes before a game and I’ll tell you right now, Jose is going to eliminate any complacency.”
Goncalves didn’t just provide a lift in the locker room, but on the field, as well. The imposing center back was strong in his first appearance in more than a month, helping limit D.C. to just four shots on target while rekindling an effective central defensive partnership with Soares.
Any concerns about Goncalves being short of full fitness after such a lengthy layoff were short-lived; he played the full 90 minutes and had a big role in closing out the victory after Diego Fagundez provided the winning margin in the 77th minute.
“It takes a few weeks, maybe a few months to be 100 percent, but I definitely felt really good in training during the week and I was confident that I could play 90 minutes on Saturday,” Goncalves said. “I was happy to be back on the field, back with the guys and keep the same winning road. That’s what we did.”
Goncalves returned to a side which has been Major League Soccer’s hottest in recent weeks, winning five straight games and climbing to the top of the Eastern Conference. That form, according to Goncalves, makes it easier for him to seamlessly slide back into the fold.
“It’s easier, because everyone is playing well,” he said. “The team is playing very good football. We are creating a lot of chances and you can see that other teams are starting to worry about us.”