April 30, 2008
By Kyle McCarthy / MLSnet.com Staff
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Revolution defender Chase Hilgenbrinck played his first full game since last November when he stepped on the field for last week’s 1-0 win against FC Dallas.
“I think you saw somebody who obviously has experience,” Revolution head coach Steve Nicol said. “He stayed on his feet and he picked good spots. He defended well. He did everything that we wanted him to do.”
It wasn’t supposed to take this long to earn a start, but Hilgenbrinck said it was nice to finally get on the field.
“For me, that was a big step,” Hilgenbrinck said. “I thought our backline played solidly. That was the most important thing for me. I wanted to keep it at zero and that’s what we talked about before the game. We take as much pride in that as forwards do in scoring goals.”
The start was the first break Hilgenbrinck found all season. After going undrafted out of Clemson in the 2004 SuperDraft, Helgenbrinck headed for Chile, and played professionally there for Huachipato, Naval and Nublense.
Looking to come back to the USA, Hilgenbrinck thought he’d begin the season at left back for Colorado, but the team released him after acquiring Jose Burciaga Jr. and Tim Ward to play his position. Hilgenbrinck came to the Revs during preseason knowing that Jay Heaps was likely to start at on the left side and that he’d likely be first in line when an opening arose on the backline.
While the opening came, Hilgenbrinck’s insertion into the lineup did not. When Chris Albright went down with an ankle injury, Heaps shifted to fill the hole at right back and Amaechi Igwe stepped in on the left side.
“It depends on the system we play,” Nicol explained. “In the three-man backline, Igwe’s probably got the edge. In the four-man backline, Chase has the experience and he’s got the edge there.”
New England prefers the three-man backline, but shifted to a four-man unit to cope with a mounting injury toll and FCD’s three-man strike force. The extra berth at the back meant Igwe shifted over to play on the right and Hilgenbrinck earned his first start at left back.
Hilgenbrinck thought the shift worked out well for his side given the unique situation.
“I know we did it because of players and pieces that we were missing, but at the same time, it was because of the circumstances of who we were playing,” Hilgenbrinck said. “I thought it was a great strategy for us. It worked out well. It gave us a little bit more balance in the back.”
But with Albright on the mend and a return to the 3-5-2 formation imminent, Hilgenbrinck’s starting spot could prove just a one-time occurrence. If that’s the case, Hilgenbrinck said that he’ll put his head down and keep fighting for a spot in the lineup.
“I just work as hard as I can to keep proving to the coaches that I belong in the lineup,” Hilgenbrinck said. “I believe in myself and I believe in my abilities and experience. I know that I’ll be ready whenever they call me. That’s all I can do. The coaches will decide what’s best for the team. Just like any other player, I have to accept that.”
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