FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When Jay Heaps took London Woodberry off at halftime of Saturday night’s loss to Vancouver Whitecaps FC, it had nothing to do with how the young defender was playing.
Instead, the move was one of self-preservation.
Woodberry is currently one yellow card away from suspension, meaning if he’d picked up another caution this past weekend – on a night when referee Allen Chapman handed out eight cards – he would’ve been unavailable for Saturday night’s trip to face FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium.
That was something the Revs simply couldn’t risk; not with the absences of Andrew Farrell (suspension), Darrius Barnes (injury) and Jermaine Jones (injury) already limiting their options at center back.
With circumstances as they are, Woodberry has a big role to play this weekend – he’ll likely be paired alongside Jose Goncalves in central defense. Although his previous 12 league appearances with the Revs have been on the right side of defense, Woodberry said he feels just as comfortable in the middle, where he played during his rookie season with – you guessed it – FC Dallas.
“Switching to the left a little bit won’t be a big deal for me,” Woodberry said. “There are obviously different roles and different objectives from each position, but I feel comfortable anywhere in the back.”
Heaps opted to start Woodberry in central defense two weeks ago in the Revolution’s U.S. Open Cup meeting with the Charlotte Independence, giving the young defender a quick refresher on the position. Realistically, it was precisely this type of situation for which Heaps was preparing.
“(It was) just to kind of get my feet wet again and play the position for 90 minutes,” Woodberry said. “That was kind of the objective of that game. It was good to get 90 minutes in the center for me. It was a good time for me to get a little sharper at center back.”
Readjusting to a familiar position is one thing; more challenging, perhaps, will be forming a cohesive partnership with Goncalves through just four training sessions and a week of preparation.
Communication between center backs is critical, so the duo went straight to work on Tuesday morning in an effort to work out all the kinks ahead of Saturday night.
“We’re going to try to get on the right page from the get-go to make sure things are clicking on Saturday,” Woodberry said.
Woodberry has all the motivation in the world to be ready for this game, which marks his return to face the club that waived him prior to the 2014 campaign. A native of McKinney, Texas, Woodberry was a Homegrown signing for FC Dallas and made eight appearances for the club in 2013.
With more than 15 friends and family planning to attend the match it’s a homecoming for Woodberry, who said he holds no grudges toward his former team despite his surprising release 15 months ago.
“It’s going to be different, obviously, because I used to train with those guys every day and now I’m going to be playing against them,” he said. “But it’s in the past. It was bad timing and everything. I’m just going to try to give a good performance on Saturday and hopefully beat my old team.”