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Caldwell blossoming in Revolution midfield

Scott Caldwell 1 (USA TODAY Sports)

Photo by Bob Dechiara/USA TODAY Sports

By CARL SETTERLUND

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — If you were forced to get into a Black Friday shopping confrontation with any member of the New England Revolution’s starting lineup, Scott Caldwell would probably be the pick of quite a few.

At 5-foot-8 and with an average build, Caldwell doesn’t look like he would fight you for that last half-priced, flat screen TV. He has an unassuming demeanor off the field, right down to the CPA license he recently secured.

Don’t let the nice guy look fool you. The player Jermaine Jones describes as a pit bull is just tenacious enough to make you regret battling him, and he also happens to be blossoming into one of the better young defensive midfielders in Major League Soccer.

“Scott’s been playing really well this season,” said MVP candidate Lee Nguyen. “He’s kind of the anchor there in the midfield for us and I think (Jermaine Jones) loves it as well. It lets Jermaine roam a little bit more, to try and go find the ball, and it also frees me up to attack a bit more.”

Caldwell is the forgotten cog in a central midfield triangle that also includes Nguyen and Jones. But with the Revs one result away from their first MLS Cup appearance since 2007, Caldwell might not be far away from the national recognition he’s dodged thus far.

“He’s a small (person),” Jones said on Wednesday. “But he’s really tough to play.”

It was, in part, Caldwell’s stay-at-home defense that allowed Jones to venture forward for the late winner in the Revs’ 2-1 victory over New York on Sunday in the Eastern Conference final first leg.

Caldwell can be counted on to read the field and react efficiently, whether it’s playing the first pass in an offensive buildup, or taking the best angle when closing down an opponent.

“He does a lot of work for both of us, that we have the freedom to go in front,” Jones said. “I think both of us (Jones and Nguyen), we love it to play with him.”

Yet it wasn’t always a given that it would turn out that way.

Although Caldwell started alongside Nguyen as a rookie in 2013, he had been relegated to a substitute role earlier in the season due to a career resurgence by 32-year-old Andy Dorman.

“Everyone wants to play every game,” Caldwell told SBI on Friday. “But when you’re on the bench you get to see things from a different perspective and you get to learn. It’s a different type of learning, but any time you’re out of the lineup you try to see ways to improve.”

Dorman injured his knee in July and Caldwell seized the chance to replace him in the starting XI, but his spot was far from certain.

In August, when the Revs acquired Jones, who is traditionally a defensive midfielder, many projected him to replace Caldwell in the lineup.

Instead, coach Jay Heaps decided to play Jones further forward, push Kelyn Rowe out to the left wing and move the Revolution’s other, higher profile Homegrown Player, Diego Fagundez, to the bench.

“Jermaine’s an amazing player, he’s done so much for us already,” Caldwell said. “It’s helped me sit back more and allow him to go back and forth, and it’s definitely helped the team a lot.”

Caldwell has provided the same box-to-box coverage expected out of Jones, only he’s about a half-foot shorter and a few octaves quieter.

“He’s a coach’s dream, really,” Heaps said of Caldwell. “He’s one of the most selfless players I’ve been around both as a coach and a player. He’s willing to follow a game plan to a tee and it’s completely selfless. He wants to do it for the group and I think having a guy like him, it also embodies a little bit of New England.”

Caldwell is one of two Revs players born in Massachusetts, along with left back Chris Tierney, and although he’s only 23 years old, Caldwell has been with the organization as long as any other player.

“He understands what this organization is all about from when he was young,” Heaps said. “I love having that kind of player out there for us.”

Shalrie Joseph and Dorman both played for the club previously, but the 28-year-old Tierney is the longest-serving member of the Revs’ roster, joining the team as a supplemental draft pick in 2008.

That same year, Caldwell captained the Revs’ inaugural U-18 academy team before heading to play for Caleb Porter’s powerhouse University of Akron squads for four years in college.

Those teams include a who’s who of future MLS players, but it was Caldwell, as a sophomore, who scored the winning goal over Andrew Farrell’s Louisville Cardinals in the 2010 College Cup final.

Caldwell hasn’t scored yet in MLS, but it’s not because he can’t. He scored five times in the 2010 NCAA Division 1 playoffs and 20 times across his college career. If he has seemed a reluctant shooter in his professional career, it’s likely because Caldwell saw a higher percentage play with the ball.

During his summers at Akron, Caldwell — who hails from the town of Weymouth, Mass., just south of Boston — would return home to train with the Revolution.

“They’ve helped me out so much since I can remember,” Caldwell said. “I’m just looking forward to trying to pay them back by playing well.”

Because its his hometown team, Caldwell has a special appreciation for helping to inspire the Revolution back into title contention.

“I can remember watching games as far back as (1996),” Caldwell said, “I was back here (in Gillette Stadium) for the MLS Cup in ’02, so I’m just really excited. It’s always amazing to put the uniform on in front of the fans and I’m just really excited for this weekend.”

Comments

  1. Caldwell allows Jones and Nguyen to thrive. He holds down the midfield while Jones runs rampant across the pitch and Nguyen works his magic. Without Caldwell neither would be as effective. In my opinion the unsung hero of the Revs.

    Reply
  2. Caldwell is beckerman light. He needs to add a touch of physicality to his game, but the rest is just about there.

    Local revs players:
    Caldwell – weymouth ma
    Tierney – Wellesley, ma
    Davies – Manchester, nh area via Boston college
    Fagundez – Leominster, ma
    Heaps – east longmeadow, ma

    Does any other team in MLS have that much local talent? 3 starters, super sub, coach, all of whom grew up within an hour of Gillette.

    Reply
  3. Great to see. Scotty was first given a chance at the u14 National level, despite being shorter than 5 feet tall, by Manfred Schellscheidt. Manny also did the same for countless number of players, most recently Emerson Hyndmann (twice) because he is a real soccer coach who knows talent. Not like some of the frauds who now wear the US crest.

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  4. He’ll probably never make the headlines behind flashier players but I really like Caldwell for “his no frills” style of play. Reminds my of a younger Brian Carroll. Looking forward to watching him and this young Revs team over the next few years.

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  5. He’s really stepped up his game in recent weeks. It’s like night and day with his game. I really didn’t think we’d see Scott get to this level until next year or even latter but he’s done well. He looks like a viable starter.

    Reply

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