Two New England Revolution substitutions are worth talking about from last night’s loss to D.C. United – and for two different reasons:
Juan Toja and Benny Feilhaber (pictured).
Toja is the Colombian left-footer (and he is extremely left-footed) just acquired by New England through Major League Soccer allocation order system.
Juan Toja entered with 17 minutes to play, his team down by a goal. Revs coach Jay Heaps apparently gave Toja a free role, or he just assumed one. Because the new arrival more or less roamed the park looking for the ball.
He did manage to look lively and even dangerous in spots, although his teammates had little chance to combine given the random order of it all.
Besides, Toja hasn’t played much since February, so he’s surely neither sharp nor fit. He’s still a player worth watching for his punchy style and gifted ball handling.
The other one, Feilhaber, continues to be a head-scratcher.
The former U.S. international has clearly fallen out of favor with Heaps. He came on for the final 17 minutes as well, but was once again left out of the starting lineup.
Heaps may have decided to go a different direction, certainly his prerogative. But there are plenty of questions to be asked about here, since Feilhaber seemed to be the primary building block around Gillette Stadium.
The problem is not Feilhaber’s age. At 27, he’s about in the perfect place, career-wise, to build around. (Especially since the midfielder Heaps just signed, Toja, is exactly the same age.)
It’s not technical ability, because Feilhaber has enough of that; He’s still one of the league’s top passers, always a threat to open defenses with a little something special.
And even if Feilhaber didn’t finish his chances last night, he certainly helped create enough quality opportunities near goal, and that’s something. Heaps acknowledged as much as he talked about going for broke at the end of a frustrating night.
We had plenty of opportunities. I thought Juan did a nice job of finding space. He hit some great vertical balls. Benny, too, found some nice holes and connected with Lee [Nguyen]. When the three of them were firing, we were looking pretty good.”