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By CARL SETTERLUND
After weeks of speculation about the New England Revolution’s José Gonçalves and his injured right quad, the MLS Defender of the Year sure sounded Wednesday morning like he thinks he’s ready to return.
“I always wanted to be back as fast as possible and as healthy as possible,” Goncalves told SBI. “I now know that I am very healthy, so I’m back on the field training. Now my only next goal is to play. I’m looking forward for the game on Saturday.”
The 28-year-old team captain played in every game in the 2013 season, his first with the Revs, but Gonçalves was injured on a yellow-card tackle by Houston’s Ricardo Clark back on April 12.
“I feel good, very good,” Gonçalves said. “I started (training) at the end of last week and I enjoy it, being back on the field. Obviously, it had been a long time for me.”
Gonçalves moved with little limitation in the Revolution’s open training session on Wednesday, and he looks likely to regain his center back spot before MLS’ upcoming two-week World Cup break in June.
Here are some more notes from Revolution practice this week:
REVS TAKING REVENGE
New England (6-3-2) took losses in three of its first five matches this season, all three coming on the road against the Houston Dynamo, Philadelphia Union and D.C. United.
The latter was the last time the Revs have fallen – a 2-0 defeat at RFK Stadium on April 5 – and in the meantime, they’ve been able to avenge both other losses, topping Houston, 2-0, the following week and then Philadelphia, 5-3, just last weekend.
“It’s definitely in the back of our minds knowing that we weren’t able to pull a win out at D.C.,” said midfielder Lee Nguyen. “But they’re a tough team at home and so are we, so we’re looking to put pressure to them when they come in here.”
Can they pull off the trick a third time?
“You can’t pit it on just a revenge factor,” Revs coach Jay Heaps said. “You try to strategically come up with a game plan that was better than the last time you played them.”
NGUYEN MATCHES CAREER-HIGH GOAL TOTAL
Lee Nguyen was voted New England Revolution team MVP in his first year in MLS in 2012, but it’s safe to say his run of form in 2014 has surpassed that, and so might Nguyen’s goal total soon as well.
The 27-year-old delivered five goals in 30 games in 2012, and has already matched that career-high total through 10 games this year.
Three of Nguyen’s goals have come off penalty kicks, but he’s also been dangerous in the run of play, setting up a Diego Fagundez counterattack goal in the first half versus Philadelphia, then sidestepping two defenders for a goal of his own early in the second half.
Nguyen said the attention shown to the Revs’ other attacking options has allowed him plenty of space to operate, but he also credited a transition game that’s been as good as any in MLS.
“We’ve got to go in with the same mentality we have the past four games and know the things we’ve been doing – on the defensive end, working hard, fighting hard – those have turned over into offensive chances and we can’t get away from that,” Nguyen said.
TIERNEY A THREAT ON OFFENSE
Longtime Revs left back Chris Tierney has always been something of a long shot that made good, and after dealing with a hip injury earlier this season, the team’s longest tenured player is proving again that he deserves his starting spot on the league’s current in-form team.
Tierney has faced stiff competition for playing time from New England’s other wingback options – Kevin Alston, Darrius Barnes and O’Brian Woodbine, while Andrew Farrell could well move back over to right back when Goncalves returns.
The Wellesley, Mass., native has made his best case since subbing on for an injured Alston in the first half of a win over Toronto FC three weekends ago.
Tierney has played a prominent part in four of the Revs’ 10 goals the past two weeks, setting up the first two against Seattle, and adding a goal and an assist last weekend, both off set pieces. He has also combined well with left sided midfielder Fagundez, who has broken through during the same stretch.
“Obviously, when there’s competition for spots I think everyone’s level increases, that’s just natural, and that’s what you want in a team,” Tierney said on Wednesday.
He’s proven a consistent offensive contributor in his time with the Revs, with at least one goal and four assists in all four previous seasons as a regular starter.
What do you think of these notes? Do you think New England can avenge its earlier loss to D.C. United? Should Goncalves return to the back four, or should the Revs keep things status quo? Has Tierney done enough to hold off Alston when the latter returns to health? Can anyone stop Nguyen and the Revs’ offense right now?
Share your thoughts below.