The past month has brought nothing but frustration for New England Revolution midfielder José Cancela.
Struggling for form all season, the Uruguayan playmaker was dropped to the bench upon the return of Clint Dempsey to the starting lineup in late August. A 24-minute cameo appearance against the Rapids on Sept. 18 after the Revolution had already accrued a 5-1 lead represented the bulk of his minutes over a five-match span.
But with Dempsey suspended for last Saturday's encounter against the Dallas Burn, Revolution manager Steve Nicol inserted Cancela into Dempsey's vacant attacking midfield berth to good effect, as Cancela garnered man of the match honors with an assist and a polished midfield display.
Revolution midfielder Steve Ralston was the direct beneficiary, as Cancela's delicate curling ball found his glancing head for the second goal in the Revolution's 2-0 victory.
"Pepe put a great ball right on my head," said Ralston. "It was a perfect ball."
Revolution technical director Joe Cummings was very impressed with the efforts of Cancela in tandem with defensive midfielder Shalrie Joseph.
"I liked our midfield tonight," said Cummings. "Shalrie did a very good job of tucking in behind Pepe tonight, and Pepe did a great job of pulling the strings."
The lack of defensive fight has plagued Cancela in Nicol's system where a free role is not always supported. Revolution defender Rusty Pierce noted Cancela is best when he can add to the flow of possession.
"Pepe's always effective when he can keep the ball," said Pierce. "He is never going to be the hard tackling defensive midfielder. We need to get him the ball, and he needs to get rid of it quickly. When he keeps the ball, he's very effective."
His manager believes that additional aggression could add another dimension to the possession and passing skills that Cancela adds to the Revolution lineup.
"Pepe on the ball is someone who has a nice touch and doesn't lose the ball too often," said Nicol. "He just has to be aggressive to make something happen."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.