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A few weeks ago, the Revolution announced their end-of-year roster decisions.  New England has 15 players under contract, and exercised the options of another 9.  I won’t bore you by going through the whole list, player by player, here.  Many fine outlets, as well as the team’s website will have that information available.  However, it does present us with our first opportunity to analyze the 2023 season.

With the roster decisions announced on October 13th, we can begin to construct an initial depth chart. For the sake of the process, I’ve made the assumption that New England will look to play a 4-2-3-1 formation next season, as they had for much of the end of last season.  Additionally, I’ve included a few rumored moves, for example: Altidore possibly being on his way out.

offseason roster image

From this theoretical lineup, it’s easier to visualize where the roster has its strengths and weaknesses.  Where there should be optimism for 2023, and where Bruce Arena should focus his offseason acquisition efforts.  And so, I’ll try to do just that.  Let’s take a look at each positional group, determine its quality and depth, and assign a “level of need” for reinforcements.

Goalkeepers

Current Depth Chart

Djordje Petrovic

Earl Edwards

Jacob Jackson

Analysis

The undisputed starter for New England is 23 year old Serbian netminder, Djordje Petrovic.  Petrovic replaced an outgoing Matt Turner, now with Arsenal, to the tune of 7 shutouts.  He also lead the league in goals prevented, and his play in 2022 earned him nominations for both Goalkeeper of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.

Behind Petrovic, it gets a bit murky.  With New England’s decision to move on from Clement Diop, and with Brad Knighton’s contract currently expired, Earl Edwards Jr holds the #2 GK spot.  Behind him is 2022 draft pick Jacob Jackson.  While Jackson impressed last season with Revs II, he also suffered an ACL injury that has sidelined him since August.

Level of Need

Low: Petrovic is a lock at GK, and for good reason. Another backup keeper would be a good idea. It’s unclear how long it will take Jackson to get back into trainings, so in the short term Arena should look for a 3rd string keeper.

 

Central Defense

Current Depth Chart

Andrew Farrell

Henry Kessler

Jon Bell

Cristian Makoun

Omar Gonzalez

Ben Reveno

Analysis

Central defense is an area that many fans would like to see improved in the off-season. It’s not hard to see why. New England conceded 50 goals last season, 17th most in the league. The Farrell and Kessler pairing wasn’t as effective as it was in 2021, and injuries to Kessler made it less common, too. This left the Revolution relying on Omar Gonzalez more than they probably would have liked.

Jon Bell had been the primary backup in 2021, and eventually reclaimed that role, in spite of a tough start to the 22 season. He’s a decent developmental prospect. As is Makoun who was added in the summer. Both players can play elsewhere in a pitch and, if the end of last season is any indication, Bruce Arena may view Makoun as more of a defensive midfielder.

Level of Need

Medium: I understand this may ruffle some feathers, but I don’t actually think this is the top priority in the offseason. Bringing in a capable vet to compete with Farrell and Kessler for starting minutes may be enough, if the rest of the roster gets the attention it needs. When you factor in the fact that New England is carrying 6 CBs, it gets tough to justify using more roster spots here. That is unless they can move one or more via trade.

 

Outside Backs

Current Depth Chart

Brandon Bye

Dejuan Jones

Ryan Spaulding

Jon Bell

Ben Reveno

Analysis:

I’m not going to lie, this group scares me. Not because of a lack of starting quality. Both Bye and Jones have developed into top quality MLS outside backs.

That may end up being a problem, as both have received rumored interest from Europe. If one or both get sold before the end of next season, New England will have a serious problem to solve.  Ryan Spaulding is the only other dedicated outside defender on the team. He’s been pretty underwelming in his minutes as a Rev, resulting in Arena opting to use CB Jon Bell as a backup instead. Ben Reveno also played on the outside in college, so he remains an option as well.

Level of Need

High: I tend to think that once Tom Bogert starts name dropping you in every “who is the next player to Europe” tweet, there’s a good chance there’s some fire behind the smoke. Bogert has, on multiple occasions, insinuated that there’s considerable European interest in Dejuan Jones. It feels pretty plausible that he could leave New England before the end of the 2023 season.

The same goes for Bye, who has received some reported interest as well. New England can’t afford to “wait and see”, here. They don’t have the depth to make a sale and then weather the storm, while they scout replacements. They should be proactive this offseason, if they want to avoid the mistakes of 2022.

 

Defensive Midfield

Current Depth Chart

Matt Polster

Cristian Makoun

Tommy McNamara

Maciel

Analysis

Polster has been a rock for New England in defensive midfield, since arriving back in 2020.  During the interceding years, Arena has alternated between using him as the base of diamond midfield, and as one of a pair of defensive midfielders.  In a diamond midfield, he was entrusted to cover acres of space in front of the back-line which, without a consistent attacking threat in 2022, left New England vulnerable in transition and against quicker passing teams.

If the Revs use a 4-2-3-1 formation in 2023, outside of Polster, the defensive midfield depth chart gets exceedingly thin.  Maciel is really the only remaining natural D-Mid on the roster and he’s recovering from an achilles injury that could see him miss all of the 2023 season.  In his stead, I think the most natural fit is to use CB Cristian Makoun next to Polster.  He’s a defensive minded player and has limited experience in that spot from his time with Juventus’ youth team.  Bruce Arena has also often used Tommy McNamara in that spot.  He’s versitile, but often plays better in a more advanced position on the field.

Level of Need

High: This, to me, is the most important position on the field for New England in 2023.  They have, essentially, one natural option.  Matt Polster is really the only player on the roster who primarily plays defensive midfield.  All other existing options would require some sort of a change.  Either from another position, or by way of splitting time between multiple positions.  Bruce needs to find a starting caliber defensive/holding midfielder this offseason.  He likely also needs to bring in additional depth to cover any absences.

 

Central Attacking Midfield

Current Depth Chart

Carles Gil

Gustavo Bou

Damian Rivera

Noel Buck

Esmir Bajraktarevic

Analysis

This, much like in defensive midfield, is a positional “one-man-show”.  For 4 years now it has been Carles Gil pulling the strings in Foxboro.  He’s done quite well at it, earning Newcomer of the Year in 2019, league MVP in 2021, and All-Star call ups in 2021 and 22.  He’s the Revs’ star quarterback.  He drives the attack.

If he gets injured?  Well, that could be a problem.

You can make an argument for Gustavo Bou to be the next-man-up in that position, but it’s not really his best spot.  He played in that role in 2020 while Gil was sidelined but he didn’t find the game as well as Gil does.  Furthermore it takes him away from his best position further up the field.

Behind Bou, there are a slew of homegrown players in Rivera, Buck, and Bajraktarevic.  All 3 of them can play that position, but none have really laid claim on the position.  Bruce has used all of them in varying midfield roles, making it hard to call them anything more than an emergency fill in.

There are some rumblings that Carles’ brother Nacho may re-sign with the club, and he would present a somewhat more natural fit, even if he primarily plays out on the wings.

Level of Need

Medium?: New England is set on starting quality, but adding a backup-level CAM with good vision should be a priority.  Ideally there is a player between Carles Gil and Gustavo Bou on the depth chart when 2023 begins.  This need could be alleviated by the further development of any of the 3 homegrown midfielders, or by signing Nacho Gil to a new contract.

Oustide Attacking Midfield

Current Depth Chart

Dylan Borrero

Gustavo Bou

Ismael Tajouri-Shradi

Tommy McNamara

Noel Buck

Esmir Bajraktarevic

Nacho Gil?

Analysis

Mid way through the 2022 season, Arena made a formation shift from the 4-4-2 to the 4-2-3-1. While the change strengthened the defensive midfield, it also swapped out an extra striker in favor of wingers.  This means that Gustavo Bou will likely trade in his preferred position of second-striker for the role of right attacking midfielder. The wings were a position of weakness for New England after the departure of Tajon Buchanan last winter. In the intervening months, Bruce Arena has made it a point of emphasis to bring in wide attacking players.

Borrero, Nacho Gil, and Tajouri-Shradi were all brought in to provide speed and technicality to the wings this season.  Borrero has looked every bit the genuine article, even while missing significant time with injuries. He will certainly be a top choice on the wings for New England in 2023. The situation after Borrero gets a bit murky. Tajouri-Shradi is a more than capable winger in MLS, but an injury has sidelined him ever since he arrived in New England. Meanwhile Nacho Gil has also impressed in his limited time, but he remains out of contract at the current moment. There seems to be some interest in re-signing him, but that has yet to materialize.

Versitile homegrown midfielders Esmir Bajraktarevic and Noel Buck round out the group.

Level of Need

Low: In spite of what Bruce Arena may say, it sounds like there’s some optimism surrounding Tajouri-Shradi’s injury.  If ITS can make a full recovery and get in with the team for pre-season he could be an important piece of the puzzle for next season.

Assuming none of these players leave the club, 6 wingers should be plenty even without signing Nacho Gil to a new contract.  Still, he showed enough in his few appearances last season to make me interested in picking him up for 2023, if the price is right.

Striker

Current Depth Chart

Giacomo Vrioni

Gustavo Bou

Justin Rennicks

Jozy Altidore

Analysis

This is an tough group to project, since there’s considerable uncertainty surrounding each of these players.  Thanks to an injury, we didn’t really get to see too much of Revs DP Giacomo Vrioni.  He ended the season with just 1 goal in 7 appearances, but had barely worked up to full fitness in the summer before his injury.  Then he had to work back up to fitness after.  I don’t think we’ve really seen a representative sample of his game yet.

Gustavo Bou is the next logical choice to play striker.  His best position is probably as a second-striker in a 4-4-2.  In a 4-2-3-1 he’ll likely be playing out wide or filling in up top.  Racing has expressed interest in signing him to a deal in Argentina, so that will be something to monitor in the offseason.

Surprisingly, of the options above, the striker with the second most goals in 2022 was Justin Rennicks.  The homegrown forward found favor while Buksa and Bou were dealing with injuries last season.  He’s not a clinical finisher, but he does hustle and I think makes sense as a 3rd or 4th option up top.  He earned his starts last season by out-performing Jozy Altidore.  Altidore has been something of a miss for Bruce Arena.  Fitness issues limited his playing time with the Revs and by midseason, he was shipped off on-loan to Puebla.  He’s back in New England now, but Arena has indicated that they may try to move him before 2023.

Level of Need

High: This is such a tricky group to plan for.  If Altidore ends up leaving (maybe even if he doesn’t), New England will desperately need bodies up top.  Vrioni has the pedigree of a player that should succeed here in MLS, but if he underperforms where will the Revs turn to for goals?

Strikers tend to be fairly expensive.  I don’t think it’s usually a great idea to spend big money to buy backup center-forwards, but I think that’s precisely what the Revolution are going to need to do.  They’re going to need some sort of insurance policy to cover the potential for injury, Jozy leaving, Bou leaving, or just plain underperformance.

Let me know which position you think is most important on twitter!

Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

 

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