It's fair to say the Vancouver Whitecaps didn't put together a complete performance in a scoreless draw with the New England Revolution on Saturday.
But it was a road clean sheet in a windy Gillette Stadium after a long flight – and that shutout was kept despite Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson leaving Jay DeMerit at home to rest. Robinson turned to Johnny Leverón in DeMerit's absence in the heart of defense alongside Andy O'Brien.
That decision – surprising for many as this was just the club's third game of the season – will likely now be viewed as a savvy move given the Whitecaps' ability to pick up a clean sheet while keeping quite a few miles (on turf, no less) off 34-year-old captain DeMerit's odometer.
“I thought [Leverón] did very well,” Robinson told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 following the match. “I think he was a little bit casual at times and I think passed one or two passes out of play when he didn't need to. But having said that, we got a clean sheet, so you can't be too critical on the defenders.”
Leverón was making his season debut after suffering a concussion two weeks ago during a training session. The Honduran, normally relaxed and assured in possession, showed rust at times with his distribution but was part of a backline that withstood serious periods of pressure from the Revolution.
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But he did his primary duty. Leverón broke up several attacks and won headers, and his performance will likely translate into further action for the 24-year-old defender as the season goes along and players like DeMerit and O'Brien, 34, need beathers.
“He did do very well,” O'Brien told TEAM 1410 after the game. “I think that's one of the positive things that we've got within our squad ... players can come in and do very well. I think that was proved last year as well. [Carlyle] Mitchell has not traveled with the squad. We've got Christian Dean who came on last week.
“That's just talking about the central defensive position – but all around the team we've got competition and it bodes well for us through the core of the season.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.