Clyde Simms vs. D.C. United
Photo by David Silverman

Under the radar

The following story was published in the Revolution’s “Match Day” program for the April 14 game against D.C. United

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The casual soccer fan could watch an entire match without ever noticing Clyde Simms.

Simms isn’t flashy. He doesn’t score goals and he rarely dishes out assists. You’re unlikely to hear his name announced over Gillette Stadium’s public address system anytime after pregame introductions. Simms has only appeared on the score sheet 10 times – three goals and seven assists – in 187 appearances during his eight-year MLS career.

But that doesn’t mean Simms doesn’t do his job; far from it. Simms is a defensive midfielder primarily tasked with breaking up the opponent’s attack and getting the ball moving in the other direction by finding his teammates with simple, direct passes. Possession flows through Simms as he serves as both a link between the defenders and midfielders and as an outlet for teammates simply looking to keep the ball moving.

Since the start of the 2012 season, Simms has been showcasing his immense talents – whether you’ve noticed or not – with the New England Revolution, which claimed his rights in December’s MLS Re-Entry Process and signed the former D.C. United stalwart less than two weeks later.

“I’ve always been a player just to play pretty simple; one and two touch,” said Simms. “With so many talented midfielders around me, I kind of let them be themselves and try to be the playmakers. I try to clean things up defensively and get them the ball in good positions as quickly as possible.”

New England’s crowded midfield features a bevy of dynamic, talented attackers, including Benny Feilhaber, Ryan Guy, Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe. The breathtaking plays that they make – the ones which end up on the highlight reels – are often the product of Simms’ tireless efforts.

But it’s Simms’ usual central midfield partner, Shalrie Joseph, who most appreciates all the 29-year-old does for the Revolution. Joseph played a similar defensive midfield role earlier in his career, but now New England’s captain operates more as a box-to-box midfielder and his attacking forays are largely made possible by the presence of Simms.

“I tip my hat to him, first of all, because I’ve known him throughout the league and I’ve played against him,” said Joseph. “I always knew how good of a player he is, and now playing alongside him I definitely appreciate him more.

“He does work that you don’t really get rewarded for and you don’t see in the paper,” Joseph continued. “What he brings to the team is consistent passing and consistent possession. It allows us to keep the ball, especially in the attacking third. He cleans up well. He sits in front of the back four and does everything you could ask of a defensive midfielder … He’s the unsung hero right now on this team.”

The role of the unsung hero is nothing new to Simms, who’s gained a reputation amongst his peers as a quiet leader and one of the steadiest performers in MLS. But Simms has never been an MLS All-Star and he’s only received one cap with the U.S. National Team back in 2005.

“I’m used to it now,” Simms said of flying under the radar. “Everyone wants a bit of glory and [defensive midfield] is a position that people don’t recognize. The average soccer fan doesn’t recognize (what I do) and I’m okay with that because my teammates definitely recognize it. The coaches do, as well.”

Revs head coach Jay Heaps does more than recognize what Simms does for his team; he lauds it.

“Every game he puts in an enormous amount of work, but he also helps the play go,” said Heaps. “He’s continually moving the ball. The way I like to say it, he has a subtle presence on the game. But when you go back and watch the film, you realize how much he’s really done and how much he’s impacted the game.”

If there’s one team in the league which can fully appreciate the impact Simms has on a club – both on the field and in the locker room – it’s the Revolution’s opponent for today’s match, D.C. United. Simms made 182 appearances for the Black-and-Red between 2005-11 and helped United win back-to-back Supporters’ Shields in 2006 and 2007, plus the 2008 U.S. Open Cup. Upon his departure, he’d made the fifth-most appearances in club history.

Simms spent seven years in the Nation’s Capital playing for one of the Revolution’s biggest rivals, but on Saturday afternoon he’ll take the field donning New England’s red, white and blue to face off against his former teammates for the first time. While Simms admits D.C. will always hold a place in his heart, he’s ready to start a new chapter in New England.

“I think it’ll be fun,” Simms said of facing his former side. “It was definitely tough leaving D.C. after seven years. That’s all I’ve known in this league and it was a tough transition at first. I’m excited to be able to play against them and also excited to be able to prove myself on another team and have some success here in New England.”