FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – For the first time since serving a one-match ban on March 24, New England defender Stephen McCarthy spent a Saturday night watching his teammates from the sidelines.
A hectic stretch of three games in eight days prompted Revolution coach Jay Heaps to have McCarthy take a seat for the 2-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium. The evening spent as an unused substitute allowed McCarthy to rest his legs after playing a couple of matches in short succession and survey the performance of John Lozano in his stead.
“John played really well and I got to see how another center back does it,” McCarthy told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “I just learn more and more from John – who has played the position for years – and A.J., as well. I thought they did really well back there. I got the sideline view to see where their starting spots were. I think it was good for me and for John and A.J.”
McCarthy and Lozano may currently vie for the same spot in the lineup, but they offer different qualities to the side when they are in it. Lozano provides experience and strength in central defense, while McCarthy supplies distribution and mobility.
“He's very physical and he has way more experience than me,” McCarthy said. “He knows what he is doing. I think I need to learn from him and from my own body and my speed. I have to play to my strengths as well. It's a little different than the way he plays, but I think they're both good for the team.”
Heaps agreed that Lozano's showing provided him with some choices to make ahead of Saturday's date with Vancouver. He also added that Lozano needs more games to attain full match fitness after he struggled with a right hip flexor strain in March and April, but noted that the Colombian defender has given him plenty to think about with his showing in Utah.
“It was important for John to get minutes,” Heaps said. “It's good to have options. We're still ironing out exactly where we go from here, but, at the same time, Stephen McCarthy had played a lot of minutes up until that point.”
McCarthy would prefer to avoid spending more nights on the pine and continue to log those minutes alongside Soares in central defense, but he said the competition for places in central defense ultimately benefits the Revs.
“As much as you might say that you don't like it, I think it's good for the team,” McCarthy said. “The more depth, the better. It's such a long season that I think we're both going to get lots of time to play. We'll have to earn it now, so that's good.”