A young midfielder from Braintree, Mass is keeping two league veterans and a well-rounded foreign player with English Premier League experience off the field as he continues to make his mark as a regular starter for his hometown New England Revolution. That player is Scott Caldwell, 22, who the Revolution signed as a homegrown player last December.
Caldwell played in Wednesday night's 2-1 loss to Colorado, but should make his 15th appearance of the season when the Revolution take on the Columbus Crew in a critical match-up on Saturday night at Crew Stadium.
Both the Revolution and the Crew will enter Saturday's game with very similar records. Columbus have lost one more game than the Revolution and sit just one point behind them in the Eastern Conference standings in seventh place. A win is key for both teams, as Houston, who occupy the fifth and final playoff place, are just two positive results out of reach.
"It's essential to get points in this game," explained Caldwell to revolutionsoccer.net. "It's an Eastern Conference opponent. We don't want to slip any further down the table so this game is very important for the rest of the season."
On paper, fellow Revolution midfielders Clyde Simms, Andy Dorman, and Kalifa Cisse would all seem to be safer choices for Revolution coach Jay Heaps to make when he fills out his starting lineup sheet. And yet, Caldwell continues to rack up the starts in 2013, his rookie season.
Caldwell is one of two of the Revolution's homegrown players. Diego Fagundez, the team's season scoring leader, is the other. MLS teams are allowed to sign a maximum on two homegrown players per season and the Crew could feature some of their local talent on Saturday too.
The Revolution have been more conservative in their approach to add homegrown players to the senior team. Meanwhile, Columbus has five homegrown players, the league's highest number.
But unlike Columbus, whose local talent is only just beginning to adapt to first team play in MLS, Caldwell and Fagundez have already built up a solid bedrock of experience and are among the most dynamic and consistent players on the Revolution's roster.
Columbus can't make the same claim of their local players. Homegrown Columbus goalkeeper Matt Lampson and midfielder Will Trapp have made just one appearance this year. Ben Speas, signed last year, is a forward who has made just four attempts on goal. Another forward, Aaron Horton, has yet to make an appearance.
Columbus' Chad Barson is an outlier, as he has started seven games this year after signing his professional contract in 2013.
Then there's the Revolution's Caldwell, who has been an unsung team hero. He has the sub-glamorous honor of cleaning up messes in the center of the field. The thing is, he's pretty good at it. He's the Revolution's most composed player in possession. He has consistently been reliable in transitions from defense to offense.
The rookie has put forward a quality outing in every game he's been in. As a homegrown player, Caldwell, who played four years with powerhouse Akron, wasn't subjected to the Draft. Had he been, there's a good chance with his skills and collegiate resume that he would have been selected early.
But on Wednesday in Colorado, Caldwell and his fellow midfielders had one of their most difficult games of the season. The altitude, combined with the pressing, attacking style of the Rapids, led to a disjointed performance by the Revolution's midfield. The importance of Saturday's game, coupled with the short turnaround from Wednesday's loss, is motivation enough for the midfield to get back to its creative, possession-based scheme.
"It's such a short time between games so we can't do a ton on the training field," added Caldwell. "We know we can watch tape, we can see what we did wrong, and know we have to keep better possession on the ball and work better going forward."
The Revolution are coming off their first back-to-back losses of the season. At Columbus on Saturday is a key match for the Revolution's place in the Eastern Conference Playoff race. Caldwell, who has been as consistent as straight train tracks, is the type of player that can help the Revolution right the ship.
You can reach Julian at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @juliancardillo
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