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The Evolution: Sean Davis

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

When New York Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty went down with a small tibial plateau fracture of his right leg, homegrown player Sean Davis was tabbed as the man to step up and take his pace.

The Holmdel Township, NJ native and Homegrown Player has more than stepped up to the plate flourishing in four-straight starts as New York has amassed an undefeated record of two wins and two draws with one of each in both MLS and CONCACAF Champions League play.

Having been groomed by the RBNY academy specifically to be able to replace McCarty or Felipe Martins at one of the defensive midfielder spots in Marsch’s 4-2-3-1, Davis has been biding his time for his chance to truly show what he has to offer on a game-in, game-out basis. So far, Davis has been impeccable with two goals and one assist in his last four starts while also providing the defensive cover that have been the hallmarks of McCarty during his time in a Red Bulls shirt.

Unlike McCarty, who’s shown his ability to score goals using his head, Davis has been far more clinical with the ball at his feet scoring goals at the LA Galaxy and against the Montreal Impact. His goal at LA was especially impressive and Davis made a well-timed run inside the 18-yard box, taking the feed from Felipe with his right foot, and shooting with the same foot as he curled it past Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe.

When McCarty and Felipe are together as the Red Bulls’ two defensive midfielders McCarty’s responsibilities almost exclusively reside as fifth defender, laying back and splitting the two center backs and allowing them to cover a wider area as New York push their fullbacks high up the field.

Davis Heatmap vs. LAG WhoScored.com

Davis Heatmap vs. LAG

Davis Heatmap vs. MTL WhoScored.com

Davis Heatmap vs. MTL

In an effort to exploit Davis’ abilities with the ball at his feet, Marsch has allowed him and Felipe to interchange as the deeper-lying midfielder, allowing Davis the opportunity to get further up the field in New York’s attacks. The results have been extremely positive as Davis has aided Sacha Kljestan in the attacking midfield role. The evidence of those abilities couldn’t be defined any more clearly than on Bradley Wright-Phillips’ 41st-minute goal against Montreal. After pushing up the field, Davis took a feed from Chris Duvall and was able to pick out BWP who headed in his 59th career MLS regular season goal for New York, placing him atop the franchise scoring list. Davis also capped the scoring for RBNY in the 46th minute, wrapping up his place on the MLS Week 23 Team of the Week.

Things didn’t go as smoothly for RBNY against Alianza FC Tuesday night’s CONCACAF Champions League Group F game in El Salvador.

Against an opponent determined to clog the midfield, New York struggled in get their passing game going but it wasn’t due to the play of Davis. One of the few midfielders who managed to see some time on the ball and make connecting passes in the first half, Davis’ play kicked up a notch in the second half as Sacha Kljestan was inserted into the lineup for the struggling Shaun Wright-Phillips. In all, Davis displayed all of the attributes that have made him an excellent replacement for McCarty. The Homegrown player displayed his usual calm within the hostile environment of Estadio Cuscatlán connecting on 36 of his 45 pass attempts, a 80% clip.

1st Half vs. Alianza

1st Half vs. Alianza

2nd Half vs. Alianza

2nd Half vs. Alianza

Many Red Bulls fans were understandably concerned when the RBNY captain went down but Sean Davis has shown that they may not have to worry at all.