FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The impending return of A.J. Soares and Chris Tierney will hand New England coach Jay Heaps a selection conundrum in defense ahead of Wednesday night's match against Columbus (8 pm ET; watch LIVE online).
Soares and Tierney are regular first-choice options in the back four, but they missed out on Saturday's 0-0 draw with Philadelphia through injury and watched as their teammates kept a clean sheet in their absence.
A first shutout in seven attempts may prompt Heaps to keep the faith with that back four – including Kevin Alston in Tierney's usual spot on the left, Darrius Barnes and Stephen McCarthy in the middle and Flo Lechner on the right – against the Crew.
“I think we want to evaluate those guys [Soares and Tierney],” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “I think everyone realizes we're trying to win games. We're at the point where we're trying to put the best players on the field at all times. A lot of guys have been itching for opportunities and they're getting them now. Now it's a matter of the guys who get those opportunities to take them and do something with them.”
Soares will hope to return to his usual spot alongside McCarthy ahead of the midweek affair. He missed his second game of the season with whiplash after taking a couple of ill-timed blows to the head against Chivas USA, but he said he felt fit enough to feature if selected.
“I took a couple of hits during the game, standard stuff as a center back,” Soares said. “Everyone's being extra careful with the way things are in sports right now. Nothing too serious, though.”
Tierney's hamstring falls into the same category. His absence against the Union permitted him to heal that tweak and rest his legs for the first time since missing the season-opening defeat at San Jose through suspension on March 10.
“I'm always prepared to play,” Tierney said. “I'll prepare the same way I have been throughout my career in terms of being ready to go. I'll come in here ready to play. If my number is called and I'm on the teamsheet, then great. I'll give it my all either way.”
Bengtson, Sène absences provide opportunities for others
Revolution strikers Blake Brettschneider, Diego Fagundez (a starter on Saturday) and Dimitry Imbongo will vie for the two starting berths up front with Jerry Bengtson away with Honduras and Saër Sène lost for the season with a torn left ACL.
Heaps said he wants his pair of strikers to offer more of a threat up front after the Revs failed to log a shot on goal in the first hour on Saturday.
“Right now, there are three or four guys fighting for two spots,” Heaps said. “Your odds go up. I'm looking at training and opportunities in the game. They have to take them.”
Wait for Toja continues
Heaps would like to have Colombian midfielder Juan Toja at his disposal, but the two-time MLS All-Star has not received his P-1 work visa as of yet. Until that piece of paperwork arrives, he remains unavailable for selection.
“We're still waiting,” Heaps said. “We're hoping to get him here as soon as possible.”