The offseason is over! Finally! With players officially reporting to Foxboro over the weekend, the 2023 pre-season officially began. Players will train in Foxboro this week before flying to Florida to take part in a series of friendlies beginning on February 2nd against Inter Miami.
We'll be kicking it in the sunshine state ⚽️🌴#NERevs | @SantanderBankUS
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) January 6, 2023
With preseason upon us, it makes sense to take stock of how the Revolution’s roster has changed since their disappointing 2022 season ended on October 9th. New England has lost 8 players and signed 5 players over the past few months. Let’s dive in on how those transactions affect the team’s quality, formation, and likelihood for success.
New England said goodbye to 8 players after failing to make the playoffs in 2022. Many of them were backups or bit-contributors, but there are a few significant losses.
The following players are not currently rejoining the Revolution for the 2023 season.
|Clement Diop||GK||Option Declined|
|Brad Knighton||GK||Retirement (current U17 coach)|
|Jon Bell||D||Selected by St Louis in Expansion Draft|
|Emmanuel Boateng||M||Option Declined|
|Wilfrid Kaptoum||M||Option Declined|
|Edward Kizza||F||Option Declined|
|Ismael Tajouri-Shradi||F||Option Declined|
This is a decent chunk of the roster headed out the door. It doesn’t include the recently re-signed Nacho Gil, who was out of contract at the end of last season. Here are some of the more impactful players that left the team.
Knighton retired after 16 years playing professional soccer. He spent 12 of those years with the New England Revolution and was the last remaining holdout from the 2007 US Open Cup winning Revs team. He was mostly used as a backup in New England, but many regarded him as one of the better backups in the league.
After a 16-year playing career, 12 of which were with the #NERevs, @bbknighton announces his retirement. He will join the @NERevsAcademy as the U-17 Head Coach.
Thank you, Brad 💙❤️ pic.twitter.com/7Le1Z1iA5S
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) January 4, 2023
His departure, as well as the departure of Clement Diop, leaves the Revolution with 3 goalkeepers on the active roster. Djordje Petrovic was one of the best shotstoppers in the league last season and will be backed up by Earl Edwards Jr and (the currently injured) Jacob Jackson.
Jon Bell signed with the Revolution in 2021 after playing with Revs II in 2020. His signing was the subject of much twitter fanfare and he was quietly a fan favorite in New England.
At 25 years old, and on an inexpensive salary he represented a stellar value depth defender for the Revs. Turns out he represented value to St. Louis City as well, as they selected him 3rd in the expansion draft to round out their defensive core.
.@astrobell23 has been selected by @stlCITYsc in tonight's Expansion Draft.
Thank you and all the best! pic.twitter.com/ZIhIBSX8Ok
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) November 12, 2022
New England were already short of starting caliber center backs and the loss of Jon Bell only exacerbated that issue.
Perhaps the most confounding offseason move was the decision from the Revs front office not to resign Ema Boateng. By no means was Boateng a “world-beater” for New England, but he’d managed to carve out a meaningful role with a team that desperately needed him. He frequently made an impact for the Revolution as a late game super-sub, using his blistering pace up the wings to unbalance opposing defenses. He ended the season with 2 goals and 3 assists, while logging 996 minutes.
His contract option was declined by head coach Bruce Arena, saying “His option number is higher than we’d be willing to pay at the moment“. This feels strange to me since his guaranteed compensation for 2022 was only $225K. That’s not nothing, but it’s certainly below market value for a player that is capable of contributing ~1000 productive minutes.
For those wondering, all #NERevs players are currently in camp, except Gustavo Bou, Carles Gil, and Nacho Gil. Bou and Gil are working to acquire their green cards. Nacho will arrive soon.
As first noticed by @Sam_Minton22, Ema Boateng is also in camp.
— Seth (@SethMan31) January 9, 2023
There is some hope for a return, however, as Boateng appears to be in training camp with the Revs.
New England’s first signing of the offseason was yet another Bruce Arena reunion project. Wood joins New England after having played under Arena with the US Men’s National Team. For the Stars and Stripes, he contributed 13 goals in 45 appearances from 2013-2018.
Wood spent much of his club career in Germany, with 3 seasons in the German top flight. His best season took place in 2015-2016 where he scored 17 goals in 31 appearances for Union Berlin in 2 Bundesliga. He joined MLS side Real Salt Lake in 2021, where he only managed 5 goals through 2 injury riddled seasons. Bruce will hope that he brings some competition to the Revs forwards group.
After signing Wood, there was a long period of silence from the Revs front office. The next transfer came by way of the MLS Superdraft.
Welcome to the #NERevs, Joshua Bolma 🔵🔴@MLS #SuperDraft pres. by @adidasfootball pic.twitter.com/WyrJyCtEgr
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) December 21, 2022
The Revolution traded up to the 4th pick in the draft to select midfielder Joshua Bolma from the University of Maryland. There were, apparently, 2 players within the top 10 projected picks that New England were interested in, and Bolma was one of them. Moving up from the 10th pick to the 4th ensured they walked out of the draft with the speedy attacking midfielder.
Arena has hinted that he intends to use the Ghanaian’s pace in the number-8 role on the field. This could certainly work, as New England has most of their speed on the flanks and very little up the spine. He saw most of his success in college, however, either on the wings or as a central attacking midfielder. Only time will tell where he will fit best with New England, but his Generation Adidas contract ensures he will be with the club for the next few seasons.
Apparently leaving the whole “filling out the roster” thing late this year, New England made a flurry of signings after the New Year. The first, and potentially most impactful, of these is trading for Latif Blessing from LAFC.
The 26 year old began his MLS career with Sporting Kansas City in 2017, where he played mostly as a winger or center forward. At the end of that season he was selected by LAFC in their expansion draft. Under LA head coach Bob Bradley he became a regular, starting all 34 matches in LAFC’s 2019 Supporters Shield winning season. He spent much of that time as a part of Bradley’s high-energy, high-pressing midfield 3.
While he fell a bit out of favor under new coach Steve Cherundolo, he’s still a fan favorite in LA. He profiles for New England as a high-intensity 2-way midfielder with a motor that doesn’t quit and an eye for a spectacular through ball. He excels at gaining and maintaining possession and will likely slot into the midfield as a number 8 next to Matt Polster.
Dave Romney joined the Revs just days later, coming by way of trade with Nashville SC. Romney is another player with former Bruce connections (how many is that now?!) having begun his career under Arena with the LA Galaxy. After 5 seasons in LA, he was acquired by Nashville SC ahead of their inaugural season.
This would be bad for Nashville SC imo because Dave Romney is a good player. https://t.co/Ap47RGr9qb
— Club and Country (@ClubCountryUSA) January 4, 2023
He has paired up exceptionally well, in Nashville, with USMNT’er Walker Zimmerman. Together they formed one of the more formidable CB pairings in the league, leading Nashville to 3 straight playoff runs. As a duo, they helped their team to #3, #2, and #5 fewest goals conceded since 2020.
He will join 2022 starters Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler and compete for minutes right away. At the very least this signing brings excellent quality depth to an area that has desperately required attention for the Revs.
I, like many others, was skeptical when the Revolution announced they were signing winger Nacho Gil (brother of captain and former league MVP Carles Gil) to the team last summer. He, like his brother, came up through the Valencia Academy. Nacho didn’t quite reach the same heights as Carles however, spending most of his career at or below the Spanish second tier. He did get some playing time in La Liga, mostly with Las Palmas.
At the time, the signing felt less like a move to improve the squad and more like a move to keep in your best player’s good graces.
Nacho Gil re-signs with the club on a two-year deal 🟦🟥
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) January 5, 2023
In his limited minutes at the end of 2022, he showed genuine flashes of skill for the Revs. While he only managed 2 appearances at the tail end of the season, he looked like a natural fit on the wings. Depending on how the Revs line up, he could be a starter for the team with their current roster.
Is that all?
In a previous article on this site, I pondered: where do the Revs need the most help? I came away from that article thinking that central midfield, outside back, and center forward, were of highest need. Central defense very likely would have moved into that category as well if I’d known Jon Bell was heading to St. Louis. Those were just my opinions.
What Bruce Arena and the organization thought were priorities may have been different.
This offseason has now brought us some insight into the team’s understanding of their own needs. They addressed the lack of depth and quality in central midfield with the addition of Blessing. Bruce also seems to think that Bolma can play there as well. Furthermore, they addressed the backline, adding Romney the the group of center backs.
With Altidore still on the roster, and Wood joining the group, there are certainly enough bodies up top, even if quality depth is a concern. Add in a few wingers to fit into the 4-2-3-1 scheme that Bruce ran with to end last season, and it’s been a decent (if stress-inducing) offseason.
Even still, I think a few more additions could be useful. And it looks like I’m not alone in thinking so.
This offseason the #NERevs have brought in:
Blessing (box to box)
Do you think New England needs to make any more moves before the season? If so, where?
— Andy From Revs Nation (@AndyRevsNation) January 6, 2023
In my mind, this team still needs to address the lack of depth behind outside backs Brandon Bye and Dejuan Jones. Outside of Ryan Spaulding, there isn’t really a natural fit to fill in should one of those players miss time. There also doesn’t appear to be a clear backup for Matt Polster, aside from Maciel who is still recovering from a season ending injury suffered last year.
Fortunately, New England will have some time to make more moves. The MLS primary transfer window closes on April 24th.