An impressive beginning
Revolution rookie already a starter
Jason Griffiths didn’t have to wait long to see the field.
Griffiths joined the New England Revolution June 24 and played in a game three nights later. Just as he was starting to get comfortable with his teammates, coach Steve Nicol approached him the day before the Revolution played at Real Salt Lake.
“He said, ‘You’re starting,’ ’’ Griffiths said. “I was surprised. It just happened.’’
Griffiths, a midfielder, made his first career start alongside Shalrie Joseph in the center of the formation last Friday.
Although the Revolution suffered their second-worst loss in franchise history — an error-filled 5-0 defeat — Griffiths was one of the only bright spots for Nicol. Griffiths was able to win position while passing to teammates in open space. Before the match turned ugly, Nicol said Griffiths was one of the reasons the Revolution were outplaying Real Salt Lake for the first 20 minutes.
“He was as good of a player we had on the field,’’ Nicol said. “That shows a good sign for us.’’
Even when Salt Lake had built a four-goal lead, Griffiths was able to give the Revolution their best opportunity to score. In the 59th minute, Griffiths put a shot on goal from 20 yards away, but Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando dived to his right to make the save.
Griffiths made his MLS debut in a 1-0 home loss to the Chicago Fire June 27.
“I was nervous,’’ said Griffiths of his two matches. “But I knew it was going to be tough.’’
Griffiths, 23, was picked in the third round (48th overall) in the 2010 SuperDraft after a successful career at the University of Kentucky. He joins a team near the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 3-9-2 mark, going into tomorrow night’s match with the Los Angeles Galaxy (an MLS-best 11-1-3).
Nicol hopes the addition of Griffiths can improve his team’s ability to score. The Revolution have scored three goals since May 8 — and they all came in a 3-2 win over the New York Red Bulls May 29.
Griffiths has the pedigree to find the net. Griffiths had 12 goals and 10 assists in his four years at Kentucky. He could also be used in penalty-kick situations, as he was perfect (8 for 8) in that role for the Wildcats.
Griffiths thought he was not going to be selected in the draft, and he didn’t even bother to watch the event. When Michael Burns, the Revolution’s vice president of player personnel, called Griffiths, it was a surprise.
“I was like, ‘Mike who?’ ’’ said Griffiths, who is from Bracknell, England. “I said, ‘Who is this?’ I was really happy he called me.’’
Griffiths said he has made some mistakes in his two MLS matches, noticing most of all the speed of the game, which is significantly faster than in college.
When Griffiths started training with the Revolution, Nicol said Griffiths’s fitness was his biggest problem.
“It took him two or three weeks, and he’s still not there yet,’’ said Nicol, who is still starting him tomorrow. “But what he showed last weekend means that he deserves to play.’’
Goalkeeper Matt Reis has been impressed with how Griffiths has been able to adjust to the MLS.
“He’s put himself in a good position to help the team,’’ said Reis. “We need someone like that who is a strong guy who is willing to tackle and give us that physical presence we need in the midfield.’’
Griffiths has helped himself by relying on older players for guidance. In the first few weeks, Griffiths said he asked his teammates questions ranging from strategy to when he could spend time with guys after practice to do more work.
“I think as an older player to see the young guys do that is good,’’ said Steve Ralston, a 14-year MLS veteran. “Too many times guys come in and think they know everything. I think Jason is coming in with the right mind-set where he’s willing to learn and do the work.’’
Nate Taylor can be reached at email@example.com.