Thursday, June 26, 2014
Revolution's depth pays dividends
By Brian O'Connell
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- If there’s any question that the Revolution will need to get the most out of their 28-player roster, a quick glance at the club’s schedule next month should erase any lingering doubts.
With that in mind, coach Jay Heaps utilized a mix-and-match lineup comprised of regulars and reserves for the second straight week in Wednesday’s 2-1 fifth-round Open Cup win over the Rochester Rhinos.
“I think it’s really good,” Heaps said about his club’s depth. “If you look at our lineup, we went with a lot of different guys. I thought Alec Sundly stepped in and did an excellent job (and) I thought Donnie Smith did a great job at left back.”
Though the Revolution certainly won’t be thanking the schedule makers for the gauntlet of games on the slate during the month of July, Heaps has to be happy about the opportunities the Open Cup has afforded his squad thus far.
Much like he did in Richmond last week, Heaps used a hybrid lineup in Providence. But the one seen on Wednesday had a couple of distinct wrinkles.
The most obvious was the insertion of Saer Sene up top. Sene, who spent the majority of his minutes over the last two seasons as a wide player, returned to the striker’s role, one that he’s often said he finds the most comfortable.
“I miss it,” Sene said. “It was very good. I had a lot of fun. That’s the position I love to play, just like scoring goals and running behind the defense. I had fun today, and we won, so it was a nice night.”
Sene’s familiarity as the target forward paid immediate dividends for the Revolution. Inside of 11 minutes, the French striker gathered a pass from Lee Nguyen and fired a shot that slipped inside the far post to put his team on top in the early going.
On its face, the play appeared to be a well-worked sequence between a pair of like-minded teammates. But Sene admitted that it was a play that he and Nguyen had plotted on the training pitch, probably a number of times.
“We did a nice one-two, and he slid it for me in the box and I just finished it,” Sene said. “We work on it in practice and it was successful today.”
Sene may have ran out of gas late -- something Heaps admitted after the game -- but his performance during the majority of his 79-minute performance made a positive impression.
“He gave us a lot more than he’s really fit enough to do,” Heaps said. “But I thought he was really sharp at the beginning of the game when he was feeling his legs.”
While Sene’s contributions were certainly easier to quantify, a player who may not get as many accolades is rookie Alec Sundly.
The rookie midfielder, who was recalled from Rochester on Tuesday, went the full 90 in the central midfield. He partnered with fellow rookie Steve Neumman, Kelyn Rowe and Daigo Kobayashi, and held his own during his first-team debut.
“It was awesome,” Sundly said. “It was definitely good to be back, coming back and training with the team. It was good to see familiar faces and getting back on the pitch with them.”
Then there was Donnie Smith, a second-year outside midfielder who found himself stationed at left back. If Smith was uneasy with the assignment, he certainly didn’t show it as he won a number of challenges in the rear.
While Heaps also credited McCarthy and fellow defender Darrius Barnes for putting together a solid performance, it was clear the likes of Sene, Sundly and Smith left a positive impression.
“(McCarthy) and Darrius, they were their normal selves,” Heaps said. “But those guys, having not played those positions for us recently, they did excellent.”