Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By CARL SETTERLUND
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Plenty of New England Revolution players have received recognition for the team’s early success in 2014, but their unheralded early hero might be 31-year-old Daigo Kobayashi, a technical maestro and one of only four Revolution players to appear in all 14 games so far.
The central midfielder has proved a shrewd preseason pickup after being discarded by the Vancouver Whitecaps. Kobayashi took over the starting spot next to Lee Nguyen when Kelyn Rowe went down with a hamstring strain, and the Revolution have gone 7-2-1 in the 10 games Kobayashi has started since then.
“We believe in each other,” Kobayashi told SBI on Wednesday. “I always think about balance and we have good players in good position. Me and those make a good balance.”
With Rowe’s return to health, Kobayashi came off the bench two weeks ago against Montreal, but Revs coach Jay Heaps said that move was based off a back injury Kobayashi was recovering from and did not signal not the loss of his starting role. Kobayashi was back in the lineup last week against the New York Red Bulls.
Willing to play the simple pass alongside Nguyen, Kobayashi’s unselfishness has helped him to a share of the team assist lead (3) along with Diego Fagundez and Teal Bunbury. Kobayashi’s team attitude extends to his minutes as well. He’s subbed off in all 11 starts, allowing Heaps to take advantage of the team’s depth in midfield.
“We have really good young players, but I’m not young, so I can’t play 90 minutes,” Kobayashi said. “I go out, (Steve) Neumann or Kelyn (Rowe) come in the game. They change the game. They have good technique and shots, so it is good.”
Here are some other notes from Revs training:
HEAPS TAKING OPEN CUP SERIOUSLY
Heaps said he doesn’t buy the concept that New England is on a three-week World Cup break – after all the Revs still have U.S. Open Cup action coming up.
Come June 18, the Revolution will play in fourth round action away to one of the more competitive USL Pro sides, the Richmond Kickers.
“I think it’s going to be blended more than anything,” Heaps said on his projected lineup. “I think Richmond’s going to be a pretty good team, so I want to go there with the opportunity to win that game because I think the Open Cup is important.”
Heaps said which guy gets a day off is going to resolve itself. “We have a couple players that are definitely nicked up a little bit and we’ll be smart with them.”
He does have plenty of fill-in options that appear ready and able to start with depth in the form of Rowe, Darrius Barnes, Scott Caldwell and Neumann.
NEUMANN FINDS ROLE COMING OFF BENCH
First round pick Steve Neumann got a Georgetown education, but the college lesson he’s been making use of with the Revs is one he learned as a Hoya.
Neumann, taken seven spots ahead of his breakout teammate Patrick Mullins (11th) earlier this year, has also become a favorite of Heaps, just in a midfield with heavy competition. Despite that, Heaps has found minutes for the attack-minded 22-year-old, subbing him on in each of the Revs’ last eight matches.
“I remember back to my freshman year in college when I was coming off the bench consistently,” Neumann said. “So I’m used to that role being a young guy coming in trying to make an impact off the bench and I think it shows that Jay trusts me to come into the game in those late situations with points on the line.”
Neumann said he’s just happy to have latched on to what he considers a rising team.
“Going back to draft day, I was happy to end up here and heard good things about the program and the young talent on the team,” Neumann said. “It’s been a dream to me to be playing at this level and I’m obviously trying to contribute however I can, whether that’s off the bench or it turns into starts later in the year.”
JOSEPH BACK IN ACTION
One notable addition to Revs training this week was midfielder Shalrie Joseph, who resigned with the club in April, but has yet to appear in a game.
The 36-year-old had been dealing with a calf injury, but has progressed to the points of running through relatively strenuous drills.
REVS VOLUNTEER AT PROM FOR CANCER PATIENTS
The Revolution have been back in the community more than ever this season, and the organization struck just the right tone with one event it took part in recently, an all-expense paid prom for teenage cancer patients that was held at the Ritz Carlton last Friday.
The organization that hosts and pays for the event is called ‘A Prom To Remember.’ It was the first year trying it out in Boston.
In attendance on behalf of the Revs were gregarious personalities like Rowe and Andrew Farrell, along with Caldwell, Donnie Smith, team mascot Slyde and several of the Revs Girls.
What do you think? Has Kobayashi received due recognition? How strong a lineup will New England field in the Open Cup? Can Neumann eventually take over a starting role?
Share your thoughts below.