FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Although New England coach Jay Heaps can point to a number of potential central midfield options in his squad, he decided to eschew all of them when he found out Clyde Simms could not go against Houston on Saturday night.
Simms' absence with left ankle tendonitis presented a peculiar set of challenges. The ex-D.C. United captain plays a vital role in the Revs' 4-4-2 shape with his defensive positioning and his precise work in possession.
Instead of tinkering with the rest of the midfield setup to compensate for Simms' omission, Heaps opted to throw Ryan Guy (above) into the breach to provide an ample dose of work rate ahead of the 2-2 draw with the Dynamo.
HIGHLIGHTS: NE 2, HOU 2
“I thought Ryan had a very good night plugging away holes,” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “Losing Clyde Simms, that's a tough one because he's so good for us at clogging up spaces. I always go back, watch Clyde Simms and I always say that he's had a great game. I think Ryan did some good things tonight. I like him in that role because Clyde moves so much that you have to be able to have guys who can fill in like that.”
Although Guy's qualities may have fit the requirements for this particular task, he hadn't yet featured in a central midfield role during his time with the Revolution. The switch from his normal berth on the right wing to an unfamiliar stint in the center of the park prompted him to look to Simms' contributions for inspiration.
“I felt good,” Guy said. “I knew coming into it that I had big shoes to fill. I did my best to mimic what Clyde does for the team. I think Shalrie [Joseph] and I held the midfield well. We struggled a little bit in the first half. They had two wide midfielders that came in a lot and confused us, but, in the second half, we made some alterations and I thought we dealt with them well for the most part until the last three minutes.”
While Guy and the rest of the Revolution midfield coped well enough off the ball, they struggled to find their usual rhythm on it. Houston enjoyed the majority of the possession on the evening – 61.8 percent – while the Revs stuttered in their attempts to keep the ball when they eventually retrieved it.
In this particular department, Guy's earnest endeavor simply couldn't replace the season-long chemistry cobbled together between Simms and his regular midfield mates.
“We never really seemed comfortable with it,” Heaps said. “When you have guys like Benny Feilhaber, Shalrie Joseph and Lee Nguyen, they need to know there is cover. Ryan did a good job, but there's still learning where each other will be.”