Welcome to the offseason, dear reader. The news is slow and there are no games to talk about. New England has traditionally wait until pretty late in the offseason to make any impact signings so we’ll have plenty of time to WHAT’S THAT? THEY WHAT???
Sources: The New England Revolution and LA Galaxy have finalized a blockbuster trade for USMNT midfielder Sebastian Lletget.
A couple other MLS clubs had advanced talkss with the Galaxy for Lletget, but he’ll end up with Bruce Arena and the Revs. LA preferred to send him East.
— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) December 14, 2021
That’s right, this isn’t your parent’s Revolution anymore. Specifically it’s not Mike Burns Revolution anymore.
New England collected the cash they got from selling Tajon Buchanan to Club Brugge and quickly sent it west for the services of LA Galaxy and USMNT midfielder Sebastian Lletget. The deal is $500K up front with another (up to) $800K if certain performance objectives are met.
They didn’t stop there, either. New England also made quick work of signing veteran centerback (and, like Lletget, another former Arena player) Omar Gonzalez in free agency.
These are two fairly impactful moves for a team that won the supporters shield in 2021 and are returning most of their starting lineup for 2022. New England will need the depth. With the return of US Open Cup and the World Cup eating up a chunk of the end of the year, 2022 promises to be a busy one. Oh, and there’s also this….
?? @NERevolution faces ?? Cavaly AS in the Round of 16 of #SCCL22! pic.twitter.com/TllZnuQQsw
— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@TheChampions) December 15, 2021
With that in mind, let’s take a look at where the Revolution roster could use some additional reinforcements for the upcoming season.
Positions of Need
I hesitated to put ‘winger’ specifically as a position of need, since in the Revs 4-4-2 diamond formation, they don’t use wingers. At least not in a traditional sense. The diamond formation gets its width from the outside defenders pushing higher up the field when in the attack. This allows the left and right midfielders to play more centrally, linking play and creating overlaps up the wings.
I say the Revs need a winger, but more specifically they need a Tajon Buchanan. As I mentioned earlier, he’s on his way to Belgium to play for Champions League side Club Brugge. This leaves New England without the Canadian phenom’s services ahead of a busy season.
New England, on paper, has already signed his replacement, the aforementioned Sebastian Lletget. Lletget certainly fits the bill talent-wise, and even fits the Revs tactical preference in the diamond midfield better than Buchanan. He brings a different set of skills, however.
Lletget is an excellent piece to help the Revolution build up in the attack. He’s good at linking up with his teammates, and generally plays mistake free soccer. In 2021, his pass accuracy of 91.8% would have been the best on the Revs (excluding Damian Rivera’s 100% accuracy in his lone 28 minute appearance).
What he lacks, and what the Revolution should be looking to replace within the squad, is Buchanan’s combination of speed and strength. While I thought that Tajon spent too much time trying to beat the opposing team’s entire defense by himself, there was little doubt that (on occasion) he was capable of doing just that.
Just in case anyone needed reminding…@TajonBuchanan is ????? ?????????#NERevs pic.twitter.com/BzlCYauBVm
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) September 24, 2021
New England certainly won’t be able to replace that level of production on his FREE (Generation Adidas subsidized) salary, but they would do well to find someone who can pull a rabbit out of their hat when needed.
This is an area of slightly less concern to me after the Omar Gonzalez signing last week. If the Revolution had an achilles heel in 2021, it was that they had a tendency to leak goals. Not quite enough goals to lose… or even draw most of the time, but it’s still an area of concern.
To end the season, New England had 4 natural centerbacks on the roster. The ‘reliable veteran’ Andrew Farrell, the ‘up-and-comer’ Henry Kessler, and a pair of Revolution II depth pieces in Jon Bell and Collin Verfurth. Bell actually saw some minutes in 2021 and mostly looked like an MLS capable centerback, while Verfurth didn’t see any action and was let go at the end of the season.
Enter Omar Gonzalez. Gonzalez had a rough go of things north of the border in his 2 seasons with Toronto FC. He was a game-in game-out starter for a Toronto side that surrendered 66 goals in 2021, the second worst mark in the league. He’s also 33 years old, and it’s clear that his best seasons are behind him. All of this obviously sounds bad.
That said, he’s a proven veteran centerback. A player who has won in MLS (with Bruce Arena’s Galaxy) and in Liga MX. He may be slower these days, but he still posted a reasonably solid goals added value in 2021.
For the “Omar is washed” crowd. ASA’s goals added per 96 puts him pretty much on par with both Kessler and Farrell.
When not normalized to 96 mins, Gonzalez ranks 32nd in G+ among CBs, with Kessler 28th and Farrell 26th.
Not too shabby for a depth signing. #NERevs pic.twitter.com/sLywUWlxYN
— Andy From Revs Nation (@AndyRevsNation) December 23, 2021
He’s a tall physically dominant centerback that could thrive in a smaller role or off the bench in New England. That said, I think the Revs could afford to find another younger option either through Revolution II or through the MLS draft.
This one seems like the most obvious area of need of all for me. Adam Buksa absolutely delivered value in 2021, after a somewhat disappointing 2020 season. His 16 goals were the best by a Revs player since 2014. He’s also entering the last year of his contract. He’s garnering interest abroad and has indicated that he would like a move back Europe this winter.
AS Monaco intrested in signing 24 year old Polish Striker Adam Buksa from MLS club New England Revolution.Adam has scored 4 goals in 8 matches.
(@Eugeniogonza2 @wlodar85 ) pic.twitter.com/m96wDiVmcN
— ASMonaco ????????? (@ASMonacoEnglish) June 7, 2021
Whether or not New England moves on from the 24 year old polish international, reinforcements are badly needed in the striker department. With Teal Bunbury sold to Nashville SC earlier this offseason, the depth chart behind Buksa is exceptionally thin. The only other true center forwards left are homegrown/former USYNTer Justin Rennicks, and 2nd year draft pick Edward Kizza. You could make the argument that, like Gustavo Bou, Rennicks is best suited as a second forward.
With no Teal, and should Buksa leave in the offseason, that might leave the young striker from Pitt, Edward Kizza, as the potential starter. His college tape looks impressive, but he is young and unproven at the MLS level. Stylistically he is more of a fox-in-the-box striker in the mold of Chris Wondolowski, than the commanding aerial presence that Buksa provides.
Hopefully New England is prepared to fill a Buksa shaped hole in the roster, but until he’s sold New England won’t have any DP spots available. This will make it difficult to replace his production, but there may be some stop-gap options available in free-agency that Bruce could make use of.
Where do you think New England needs to strengthen the roster over the offseason? Let us know on socials!