FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When the New England Revolution host Orlando City SC on Saturday night in a match critical to both team’s playoff hopes, they’ll do so without two key pieces of their backline.
Antonio Delamea (Slovenia) and Je-Vaughn Watson (Jamaica) will be unavailable while on international duty, leaving gaps at both center back and on the left side of defense. Delamea has started every game for which he’s been available this season – missing just one because of injury – while Watson has appeared in four of the Revs’ last five games since returning from the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Benjamin Angoua is eligible to return following a one-game suspension and could partner Claude Dielna in central defense, while Andrew Farrell, Josh Smith, Donnie Smith, Chris Tierney and London Woodberry all offer a bit of flexibility along the backline.
“It’s kind of next man up,” said Farrell. “We’re ready for a tough challenge. (Those are) two guys who’ve been huge for us. [Antonio] has been really big for us, and Je-Vaughn – when he’s been in – he’s been huge. Obviously we don’t want to miss those guys, but we’ve got guys who can step up.”
Delamea has been an unquestioned leader in his first year with the Revs, making his absence all the more critical. But Dielna – despite having just two MLS appearances under his belt – alleviates some of those concerns as he’s immediately stepped into a leadership role.
“He’s very vocal, a physical presence,” Farrell said of Dielna. “He leads in practice, in the locker room and in games. It’s something that I think we need more of and I’m glad to have that.”
Saturday night’s meeting with Orlando was originally slated to be the Revolution’s home opener on March 11, but was pushed to this upcoming weekend – a FIFA window – because of extreme weather, leaving both teams shorthanded.
“There’s nothing really we can do,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “We lose two good players that were key for us this past weekend, and it’s just another opportunity for someone else to step up.”
Despite the circumstances there can be no excuses for either side, as both teams need maximum points to get themselves back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
“We understand how important every single game is,” said Juan Agudelo. “I feel like we’ve been saying this for the past month, but this is really, really important – [because] we haven’t been able to get an away win – that we pick up points any way possible.”