FOXBOROUGH — It has not been an easy season for the Revolution’s Benny Feilhaber.
The skilled midfielder, once a regular in the starting lineup, has seen more of the bench during the last two months. Feilhaber has started in only two of the last seven games. On Sept. 5, in a 2-0 win over Columbus, he never got off the bench.
“Obviously, it’s been a tough season,” said Feilhaber (20 starts in 26 games). “I haven’t had my best season. Our team hasn’t had as good a season as we could have had or thought we’d have at the beginning of the year. It’s a little bit of trial and error now, trying new things, seeing what fits. I’ve been kind of pushed to the bench. Obviously, I’m not happy with it. No one’s ever happy going to the bench, not playing, or whatever it is. Obviously, I want to be back in the starting lineup.”
Feilhaber will likely get that chance.
Coach Jay Heaps will introduce significant lineup changes against the Dynamo on Saturday. For the first time this season, Heaps will be without Lee Nguyen. The midfielder underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on Monday.
Nguyen was the only Revolution player to appear in all 30 games. Nguyen, one of the team’s best dribblers, recorded five goals and two assists. The Revolution had claimed Nguyen on waivers from Vancouver.
“He was excellent in the locker room, excellent on the field,” Heaps said. “Lee showed his class at times as being one of the top midfielders in the league. He’s versatile. He can play underneath. He can play wide. I think five goals was pretty good. He probably should have had more assists, two of which were called back directly off his foot. Lee, for us, has been an excellent addition, someone you could build a scheme around offensively. We built a lot of schemes around Lee, where he could get the ball, how he could get the ball. When we were playing well, we used Lee quite a bit.”
Nguyen will have company on the sideline. The Revolution also will be without Flo Lechner (knee) and Chris Tierney (knee/hamstring). Clyde Simms (calf) is doubtful. Ryan Guy will not be available. The midfielder, who set up New England’s lone goal against New York last Saturday, is representing Guam in the Paulino Alcantara Peace Cup in the Philippines. Matt Reis, the No. 1 goalkeeper, will not start.
Likely reinforcements include Feilhaber and Juan Toja in the midfield, Stephen McCarthy on defense, and Bobby Shuttleworth in goal. The Revolution were officially eliminated from playoff contention last week. The players are looking to catch their evaluators’ attention heading into 2013.
“We still have goals,” Heaps said. “Creating some depth and competition at each position is part of that process and making sure that every day, creating competition out there, that translates into games.”
Saturday will mark Shuttleworth’s second straight start. He allowed one goal in last Saturday’s tie with the Red Bulls. After Saturday’s game, he might see one more start prior to the season-ending game against Montreal Oct. 27.
“We certainly know what Matt can do,” Heaps said of Reis. “Now we just want to see where Bobby is and where the goalkeeper situation is for this year and going into next year.”
While the Revolution will not make the playoffs, the Dynamo are pushing for the postseason. Houston is one point ahead of Columbus for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Dynamo will look to Will Bruin (11 goals) and Brad Davis (11 assists) to pace their attack against the Revolution’s 4-4-2 formation.
Houston will be dangerous on set pieces. They have scored eight goals off 111 corner kicks. The Revolution have scored only one goal off a corner kick.
Houston is 9-0-5 at home. The Revolution are 1-11-2 away from Gillette Stadium.
“You know that going in there is going into the lion’s den,” Heaps said. “That’s a great experience for our guys, playing on the road in a place like Houston, where they’re undefeated. It’s a pretty good opportunity in itself to see where we measure ourselves as a team, as players, as individuals, the whole thing.”