In first start, Woodberry a force on defense

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Teal Bunbury may have been the hero by scoring and assisting in Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Union, but the Revolution couldn't have pulled off the comeback victory without a strong performance from an unlikely source.

With injuries decimating the back line, third-year defender London Woodberry made his first start of the season at right back and pitched in to keep a potent Philadelphia offense at bay.

“I was working hard all week hoping I could get an opportunity to play,” Woodberry said. “Luckily, Jay (Heaps) gave me the opportunity. It was a good moment for me. It was my first 90 (minutes) in a long time, so it was nice to get the legs back under me.”

But Woodberry, whose last MLS appearance came with FC Dallas in June 2013, wasn't just happy to be back on a MLS field for the first time in nearly two years. Knowing that he and his defensive teammates would be tested by the Union, anything less than a complete effort could spell disaster.

Early on, the versatile defender showed no fear pushing forward, and launched a pair of dangerous crosses to Andy Dorman and Charlie Davies. It was a preview of coming attractions.

As the game progressed, Woodberry continued to be a force on the flank, connecting with teammates and providing defensive cover when needed. He showcased speed and positional awareness, too, clearing away a Maurice Edu ball headed for goal. His performance may have been a revelation to many, but it was no surprise to Heaps.

“He was someone we loved in college,” Heaps said. “We scouted him quite a bit when he was at Maryland so I saw him play a lot in college and really rated him high then.”

The only thing that kept the Revolution from outright drafting the Terrapin defender was that he was homegrown-protected by FC Dallas, which signed him to a contract prior to the 2013 season. But after two unproductive seasons, his option was declined.

He was brought in for a preseason trial in January, and impressed the coaching staff with his versatility and technical ability, both of which he showcased on Sunday. A center back by trade, he slid to fullback on Sunday, and fired off a team-high 11 crosses against the Union.

“He was doing everything right,” Bunbury said. “He was in great positions defensively, he was confident on the ball, he played it simple when he had to, he was making runs, and he was whipping some balls in, and playing balls in behind.”

All the more impressive about Woodberry’s 2015 debut was the fact that he had to keep close tabs on the dangerous and elusive Fernando Aristeguieta, who has scored a team-high three goals for Philadelphia this year.

“(It was) a good experience, and a good challenge,” Woodberry said. “I thought that I was well prepared for it. He’s a good player, and luckily our back line held him to not score a goal. It was good from that perspective.”

When it was all said and done, Woodberry completed 94.3 percent of his passes, and helped set up Bunbury’s assist on Charlie Davies’ 64th-minute equalizer.

Despite that, he knows that his spot in the lineup isn't guaranteed come Saturday.

But at least one of Woodberry’s teammates believes he made a strong case for another start.

“When London came into (Sunday’s) game, for me he was the Man of the Match,” Bunbury said. “He’s been working hard in training, and he took full advantage of his opportunity, and made the best of it.”