The New England Revolution have a strong core of players from which to build in new head coach Brad Friedel’s first year at the helm, but the club needs to acquire additional talent – from both a quality and quantity standpoint – if it hopes to compete at all this season.
Signing players hasn’t been an afterthought in Foxborough this off-season, but outside of re-signing four out of contract players and some transfer speculation, the Revolution front office have had little to show for their efforts with the calendar flipping to 2018.
As of New Year’s Day, the Revs roster contains just 17 players. The club has been linked with academy product Isaac Angking and is expected to announce the signing of Syrian-Swedish defender Gabriel Somi in the coming days. The Revolution also have a pair of back-to-back first round picks (eighth and ninth overall) and a fourth round pick (78th overall) in the 2018 Superdraft, which will take place in Philadelphia on January 19 and 21.
So by the time preseason officially starts on January 22, the Revolution should have at least 18 players on their roster, plus a handful of trialists from the Superdraft and elsewhere.
Here’s a breakdown of where the Revolution roster currently stands, by position:
Goalkeepers: Cody Cropper, Brad Knighton, Matt Turner
Expect Friedel, arguably the best American goalkeeper of all-time, to have some strong feelings about what to do with his three shot-stoppers. It is highly unlikely that this position will see any turnover for the remainder of the off-season. However, preseason will be a strong barometer for which player Friedel will name as the opening day starter.
Cody Cropper started 28 games last season and displayed a mix of promise and inexperience. At 24, he’s still in the developmental stages of his goalkeeping career. Conversely, Knighton is a 10-year league veteran who has spent the brunt of his time in MLS as a capable back-up. A coach like Friedel, who has first-hand experience as a professional goalkeeper, may be inclined to halt the status quo and give Knighton his big chance.
Regardless, 2018 will again feature Cropper and Knighton competing for the top spot; Matt Turner is very clearly third in line.
Defenders: Antonio Mlinar Delamea, Claude Dielna, Chris Tierney, Andrew Farrell
Make it four straight off-seasons in which bolstering the back line is the Revolution’s top priority. What’s remarkable is that the Revolution actually tried – hard – to fix their porous defense last year. They spent millions of dollars in general allocation money and targeted allocation money, plus a designated player spot, to bring in Antonio Mlinar Delamea, Benjamin Angoua, and Claude Dielna. It didn’t work. The Revs conceded 61 goals, which was the most in the Eastern Conference and the third-most in league.
Angoua, who struggled to pair with both Delamea and Dielna, was only with the Revolution on loan and has returned to Guingamp, his parent club. Meanwhile, Delamea and Dielna, who joined forces mid-season last year, will have the benefit of playing with one another in central defense during preseason.
The Revolution also re-signed Andrew Farrell, who is valuable as a right back. What he lacks in crossing ability he makes up for in speed. Conversley, the veteran Chris Tierney lacks in speed what he makes up for in crossing from the left flank. Though the Revolution certainly need to add at least two more central defenders to back up Delamea and Dielna, finding capable talent to bolster the flanks is even more important. It’s clear, from both a tactical perspective and simply by taking fitness into account that the Revolution can’t get through the season with Farrell and Tierney as their only full backs.
And no, Kelyn Rowe shouldn’t be considered a left back, either.
Midfielders: Lee Nguyen, Diego Fagundez, Scott Caldwell, Kelyn Rowe, Zachary Herivaux
New England’s greatest assets rest in midfield. The team’s playmaking ability runs through Lee Nguyen, Diego Fagundez, and Kelyn Rowe, while Scott Caldwell is a precise passer and an invaluable help on defense.
Though the Revolution certainly need more physicality in central midfield – something along the lines of a Jermaine Jones-type – the biggest issue in this part of the pitch isn’t numbers, it’s tactics. Though the Revs midfield is talented it’s also seemingly made up of misfits. Rowe and Nguyen are basically doing the same job, while Fagundez, to a fault, is playing myriad positions.
What is Fagundez supposed to even be? Winger, playmaker, second striker? He can maybe do two, but certainly not all three.
Though this part of the pitch very badly needs a central midfielder to pair with Caldwell and more depth, the onus is on Friedel to figure out how best to arrange the pieces.
Forwards: Teal Bunbury, Juan Agudelo, Krisztian Nemeth, Brian Wright, Femi Hollinger-Janzen
Depending on how the midfield lines up, it’s perfectly conceivable for the Revolution attack to be a three-headed monster comprised of Juan Agudelo, Krisztian Nemeth, and Teal Bunbury. Each of these players has exhibited the qualities of both a No. 9 and No. 10, though one of these three – looking hard here at Agudelo – needs to take the reigns as the poacher.
The Revolution have more attacking threats than most if not all the teams in MLS. But they need a Taylor Twellman-type, or an attacking player that can net them 15-20 goals in one season. Agudelo and Bunbury haven’t looked the part, while there isn’t enough evidence to say either way with Nemeth.
In any case, it’s probably in the Revolution’s best interest to wait until at least the first half of preseason to decipher their attack. The needs in that position aren’t as obvious and don’t outweigh what’s lacking elsewhere.
If the New England Revolution started the season today