Farrell slides into center back role

A week after a leg injury reduced him to a spectator for the season opener, Revolution right back Andrew Farrell received his first taste of regular-season action in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Union -- albeit at a different position.

Farrell, who was at right back in all of the 32 games he played as a rookie in 2013, made his first professional start at center back after Jose Goncalves was not listed on the 18-man game-day roster for the clash at PPL Park.

While the circumstances -- taking over the reigning MLS defender of the year’s spot, returning from an injury and facing a dangerous Philadelphia attack -- may have been far from ideal, Farrell more than held his own by recording a game-high 16 clearances on Saturday.

“I felt good,” Farrell told the media after the match. “I just think coming into a new spot, playing with guys like A.J. [Soares], Chris Tierney and Darius [Barnes] in the back, and they played plenty of times in the back line. They helped me a lot, and you could see that.”

The cohesion between Farrell, who saw time at center back in college, and his fellow defenders was evident early. Though the Revolution came into Saturday’s clash only a week removed from a 4-0 thumping from the Dynamo, the defense was markedly improved and succeeded in thwarting the Union attack through the first half hour.

But the Union were a determined side in front of the home crowd for the first time this season. Despite New England’s best efforts to keep them off the scoresheet, the hosts broke through in the 31st minute. Leo Fernandes grabbed a pass from Fabinho and juked Farrell before feeding Sebastien Le Toux inside the six, where the Frenchman tapped through the lone goal of the game.

In a refreshing display of honesty, Farrell not only owned up to the mistake, but acknowledged the implications as well.

“That one play I stepped, when they got the goal off of that -- just that one mental mistake -- it cost us the game,” Farrell said.

While the sophomore defender may have put the blame on his shoulders, coach Jay Heaps attributed the goal to intelligent play from the Union rather than Farrell’s inability to close on Fernandes prior to the critical pass.

“It was a good smart play from their player,” Heaps told the media after the match. “[He] shielded the ball well, and then unfortunately breaks behind our back line and we got to stay with runners. It was a pretty easy pass once they broke into our 18.”

Whatever the case may have been, Farrell and his teammates weren’t shaken. Although the attack failed to find the back of the net for the second straight week, Farrell and his fellow defenders kept the Revolution in the game by sending a number of balls out of harm’s way.

“I thought Andrew did a nice job in the center,” Heaps said. “It was his first game back in a little bit, I thought he adapted well and finished the game well.”

Even though Farrell won the praise of his coach, he wasn’t about to hang his hat on a performance that ultimately failed to yield his team a single point.

“It’s tough,” Farrell said. “But [we’ll] take some positive from the game, and [we’re] looking forward to the home opener and getting back on our feet.”