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Fast start by McCarthy

Midfielder fits in with Revolution

In his first pro season, Stephen McCarthy, 22, finds himself a starter in the Revolution’s three-man central midfield. In his first pro season, Stephen McCarthy, 22, finds himself a starter in the Revolution’s three-man central midfield. (Bret Hartman/Associated Press)
By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / April 1, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH — Stephen McCarthy has followed a familiar path to a starting spot in the Revolution midfield. Like Clint Dempsey and Daniel Hernandez before him, McCarthy performed for Dallas-area youth clubs and trained with the local professional team.

Dallas’s loss of Dempsey and Hernandez was the Revolution’s gain, the players helping the team to successful seasons from 2002-06. McCarthy’s professional career only began this season, but he is off to a promising start, playing in a three-man central midfield alongside Shalrie Joseph and Pat Phelan.

McCarthy, who was taken in the second round of the 2011 SuperDraft, could make his third successive start tomorrow as the Revolution (1-0-1) host Portland (0-2-0).

“Obviously, I wasn’t even imagining I would be starting,’’ McCarthy said yesterday. “But we’ve had some injuries and I’m just trying to help the team.’’

McCarthy, 22, was a member of the 2006 Dallas Texans team that became the only US squad to take the Dallas Cup Super Group title, and he also won the 2007 US Youth Soccer national title. He played three seasons for Santa Clara University, then transferred to North Carolina, an NCAA semifinalist last year.

“We played more of a diamond midfield and I played defensively and some attacking, also,’’ McCarthy said. “I haven’t played in a ‘three’ that much, but it’s really nice because we can help each out and do some work for each other.

“It has been a learning experience and it’s had to be a quick learning experience, going from college to here. Pat and Shalrie have helped me quicken the learning curve. I do what [Joseph] says. If he tells me to do something, I’m not questioning it, I’m just going to do it. I couldn’t ask for more experienced players to play with.’’

The Revolution were expected to align in a 4-4-2 formation, with Joseph and Ousmane Dabo playing centrally, but Dabo has been out with a calf injury.

“I’ve said all along, we’ll do what suits us,’’ Revolution coach Steve Nicol said. “We’re not rigid, so to speak, we’re concerned with how to get the job done best with the players we have. If that means we’ll play with 10 defenders or 10 attackers, or whatever, that’s what we’ll do.

“[McCarthy] has done really well. He’s good on the ball, wants to go the right way, and, obviously, he’s a big presence, certainly in the air. It’s been kind of a new thing for him, as well, and he’s adapted well. I think when you have a guy who looks to play the ball forward but wants to defend, that’s a good combination.’’

McCarthy, who is 6 feet 4 inches, resisted being recruited to other sports.

“Like basketball, maybe,’’ McCarthy said. “I played a little of everything, but as soon as I was in middle school, I knew soccer was it.’’

A defensive mentality comes naturally to McCarthy, whose father is a Marine Corps Reserves pilot.

“Some people see my size and put me at center back or forward in the past,’’ McCarthy said. “It’s not my favorite thing, but I can play there. I always loved defensive midfield, going for headers and trying to clean stuff up. I like to think if you’re struggling in a game, you can always help the team by working hard as you can on defense.’’

The Revolution waived defender Seth Sinovic, clearing roster space for central defender Otto Loewy and the expected signing of Danish forward Rajko Lekic. Sinovic started at left back in the season opener at Los Angeles, but had fallen behind Didier Domi and Chris Tierney on the depth chart. “It’s kind of a numbers thing, somebody had to go,’’ Nicol said. “Hopefully, somebody picks him up. He’s a good guy, a good, solid fullback. It’s just unfortunate he’s found himself farther down in the pecking order than, obviously, he wanted.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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