FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England coach Jay Heaps made five changes to his starting XI prior to last Saturday's 2-0 victory over the Chicago Fire.
The measures – designed both to inject some life into a side in the midst of a two-game skid and reward regular reserves for their work on the training field – paved the way for an improved performance and a critical three points.
“I think we asked a lot of guys and we had a lot of guys who were chomping at the bit,” Heaps told MLSsoccer earlier this week. “We wanted to get players in. I think the guys who went in took their chance well. It's great. It's a good competition at each position.”
The question for Heaps and his players now involves how many of those changes might stay in place when the Philadelphia Union visit on Sunday night (7:30 pm ET, MLS Live). Heaps cited a variety of factors behind his decision to make those swaps and noted the possibility for further adjustments against a Union side capable of posing a significant threat on crosses (11 goals scored) and set pieces (eight goals on corner kicks and indirect free kicks).
“It's a combination,” Heaps said about his recent desire to amend his starting XI. “For certain guys, we wanted an uptick in a certain position, we wanted a little bit of energy in a certain position. Some of it was tactical and what we saw on the film against Chicago. And a lot of it is feel. You see it where guys are fighting every day. Sometimes, they are a little bit better than the guy ahead of them and you have to reward that. Ninety percent of the stuff we do is out here on the practice field. It really matters.”
Most of the focus will fall on the battle for the shirting nod in goal after Matt Reis made his first start since March. Heaps did not divulge ahead of time whether Reis or Bobby Shuttleworth -- who has started 21 of the Revs' 24 matches this season -- would start the midweek match, but he noted that he already had a fair idea about the identity of his goalkeeper for the Union's visit.
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Heaps may also keep the faith with Chad Barrett on the right flank with Charlie Davies still short of full match fitness and Saër Sène ruled out through suspension after his involvement in the post-game fracas against the Fire.
Chris Tierney (QUESTIONABLE – right hip irritation) must also prove his fitness after landing on the injury list this week. Kevin Alston would likely assume the duties at left back if Tierney isn't ready to feature. Clyde Simms (QUESTIONABLE - right turf toe) remains unlikely to play a role for a fourth consecutive encounter, while Juan Toja (OUT – lower back irritation) will likely miss his third consecutive match.