FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It’s been a season of “wait and see” for veteran defender Darrius Barnes.
After watching A.J. Soares and Stephen McCarthy get the bulk of the minutes at center back, Barnes, a regular starter up until this season, could only watch. And wait.
But after a concussion kept Soares on the bench for the last two games, the veteran defender stepped in and helped lead the defense to back-to-back shutouts against the Union (Sept. 1) and Crew (Sept. 5).
Vindication? Perhaps. But even if such a thought had understandably crossed his mind, he certainly wasn’t dwelling on it after the Revolution’s 2-0 win on Wednesday.
“It just feels good to get back in the lineup and to get some minutes in,” Barnes said. “With the help of all the guys around me and Matt (Reis), we’ve been able to come up with a couple of shutouts.”
The consecutive clean sheets couldn’t have come at a better time. At the time Barnes was cast back into the lineup, the club was mired in the thick of a lengthy winless streak. Making matters worse, the defense had generously allowed nine goals in its previous three games. The Revolution needed something – anything -- to get back on track.
Few expected a makeshift backline to get it done. With Soares and Chris Tierney unavailable due to injury for the contest against Phildadelphia, head coach Jay Heaps cobbled together a lineup that reintroduced Barnes in the center alongside midfielder-turned-defender Stephen McCarthy.
Normally, a change in central partnerships can throw the doors wide open for disastrous results. But for McCarthy and Barnes, the transition was seamless.
“What I lack, he covers for me,” Barnes said. “And what he lacks, I cover for him. So I think that’s the key, to just support each other and having each other’s back.”
From his view along the touchline, Heaps was certainly pleased to see his new central combination go off without a hitch.
“I think they read the game well together,” Heaps said after Wednesday’s game. “I think McCarthy is playing with a lot of confidence right now. And I think Darrius has been waiting for his chance. He’s stepped up and done really well.”
Of course, with Soares returning to health, Heaps will have a difficult decision to make when the Revolution return to action against D.C. next week: Keep Barnes, the proverbial hot hand, on the field? Or allow Soares, the starter, to reclaim his role?
Whatever decision is made, Barnes remains committed, first and foremost, to the collective goal: winning.
“It’s all about team right now,” Barnes said. “We’ve been right there on the edge. It feels good to get back in (the win column) and hopefully we can keep it up.”