TUCSON, Ariz. – Twenty days. Perhaps even 19 if you’re reading this on Tuesday.
The countdown is on for the New England Revolution’s season opener against the Houston Dynamo, and much of the buildup to March 6 will be spent in Tucson, Ariz., where the Revs kicked off a two-week training trip on Monday morning.
One of the primary objectives of this trip is to determine exactly what the Revolution’s starting lineup will look like at BBVA Compass Stadium. All over the field battles are taking place for starting spots as the Revs have focused on building out their roster with versatility and depth.
One of the more intriguing battles currently unfolding is at right back, where rookie Jordan McCrary is stating his case for first-team minutes alongside veterans London Woodberry and Darrius Barnes.
“That’s exactly what it is – it’s a battle,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “We’re seeing a couple veteran guys fight, but also show the ropes a little bit and give Jordan a good learning curve. I think Jordan’s learning a lot by watching London and Darrius.”
There was a bit of a revolving door for the Revolution at right back last season. Woodberry (16 starts) featured most consistently, but Barnes (three starts), Kevin Alston (four starts) and Jeremy Hall (11 starts) also saw their names penciled into the starting right back spot.
With Alston (Orlando City) and Hall (Tampa Bay Rowdies) both with new clubs, Woodberry would appear to be the incumbent. But first-round SuperDraft pick McCrary has progressed steadily through his first preseason camp, and Barnes is a reliable option having returned from knee surgery.
Woodberry and McCrary split time at right back through the Revolution’s first three preseason games, with trialist Jeb Brovsky also seeing 30 minutes at the position. Those three will likely see continued time on the right side of defense during the Desert Diamond Cup, which kicks off on Wednesday night when the Revs take on Real Salt Lake (10 p.m. ET).
Barnes, who has seen the bulk of his preseason minutes at center back thus far, will also see time at right back throughout the competition, according to Heaps.
“Darrius is versatile enough that we can play him at center back, or at right or left back, so we’ve moved him across the backline,” Heaps said. “He’ll start to get more minutes at right back as we go forward through this preseason.”
While one of those players will win the starting right back spot for the season opener against Houston, the battle for minutes will continue throughout the campaign. And with a trio of different options, Heaps has the flexibility to tailor the position to a game plan based on specific opponents.
“All of them bring something very different,” Heaps said. “That’s why you have depth at those positions.”