New England Revolution midfielder Carles Gil is the winner of the MLS Newcomer Of The Year award, beating a number of other players who had strong performances. He is now the 13th recipient of the MLS Newcomer of the Year Award since its inception in 2007.
The distinction is open to players who have had professional experience in a different competition who move to an MLS team during one of the two transfer windows. The 26-year-old native of Valencia, Comunidad Valenciana, Spain is the first Revolution player to receive the honour.
Carles had an impressive first year in Foxborough. He was the captain of the team and featured in the starting eleven in all 34 matches, as well as New England’s playoff loss to Atlanta United FC last Saturday. Gil was voted the JetBlue Revolution Team MVP by fans, and named the Players’ Player of the Year by his teammates. The club’s primary supporters group, the Midnight Riders, named him Man of the Year, and he also capped off the season by claiming the Revs’ Golden Boot trophy with team-highs of 10 goals and 14 assists.
The newcomer of the year award is given annually to the best player who has previous professional experience in a foreign league in that season.
The Newcomer of the Year Award is selected through votes cast by members of the media, MLS players, and club technical staffs.
CARLES GIL’S 2019 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS:
One of two Revolution players to start 34 games in a single season, playing all but eight minutes, and captained the side in 23 straight games to close the season.
Voted the club’s JetBlue Revolution Team MVP by fans, Players’ Player of the Year by his teammates, and Midnight Riders’ Man of the Year by the club’s supporters.
Earned the team’s Golden Boot trophy after becoming the second player in club history, and one of four in MLS this season, to reach double digits in goals (10) and assists (14).
Ranked second in MLS and paced all MLS newcomers with 107 chances created, and finished fourth overall with 73 chances created from open play, according to Opta.
Led all MLS players in possessions won in the final third (50) and successful passes ending in the final third (730), and ranked fourth league-wide with 2,662 touches.
New England signed Gil at the close of the European winter transfer window on January 30, 2019 for a then-club-record transfer fee from Deportivo de La Coruña of LaLiga Smartbank (2nd Division), and he was added to New England’s roster as a Designated Player. Prior to MLS, Gil had more than 180 appearances across his eight-year senior career, which included playing for Aston Villa in England, as well as Valencia CF and Elche CF in Spain.
Gil finished the season ranked among the league’s top playmakers, placing first among all newcomers – and tied for fourth overall – with 22 combined goals and primary assists. His 14 helpers ranked fifth in MLS and paced all newcomers, while his 12 primary assists were tied for second in the league. Those totals made Gil one of only four MLS players to reach double digits in goals and assists this season, and the second Revolution player to accomplish the feat along with Lee Nguyen (2017).
The midfielder was the motor for the Revolution attack throughout 2019, recording the fourth most touches in MLS (2,662) and notching 107 chances created according to Opta, second-most in the league and first among all newcomers by a margin of 24. In addition, he ranked fourth in MLS with 73 chances created from open play, and paced the league with 730 successful passes into the final third. Gil’s impact was also evident on the defensive side of the ball, where he won 50 possessions in the final third, 12 more than the next-closest player. His 239 possessions won overall also ranked first among MLS newcomers.
New York City FC’s Brazilian import Héber and another player from Spain, Toronto FC’s Alejandro Pozuelo, finished second and third, respectively. The final voting results:
2019 Newcomer of the Year
Carles Gil (NE)
Alejandro Pozuelo (TOR)
Alexandru Mitriță (NYC)
Gustavo Bou (NE)
Cristian Pavón (LA)
Brian Fernández (POR)
Eddie Segura (LAFC)
Did You Know?
Carles Gil one of only four players coming from Europe to earn the distinction. Only one Revolution player previously placed as a finalist for the honour – Jermaine Jones in 2014.
The last day of the MLS season is upon us. It’s called “Decision Day.” For most fans of soccer around the world, that means a final chance for some clubs to survive relegation, or for a club to seal the championship. For MLS, which follows the model of North American sports leagues, the final round of the season is a chance for some clubs to secure a place in the postseason tournament, known as MLS Cup.
For this season, MLS made some changes which definitely gives more emphasis to the regular season and rewards teams for better performances. The post season was revised to a single elimination format which involves single games at the home of the higher seed, rather than two legs that flattened the odds. This means teams are vying to finish high enough in the table to secure a very important home matches in MLS Cup.
All games kickoff Sunday, October 6 at 4 p.m. EDT.
What’s at Stake? Here are the main 2019 MLS Decision Day Storylines:
In the Eastern Conference, three teams – D.C. United (4th place / 49 points), New York Red Bulls (5th / 48 points) and Toronto FC (6th / 47 points) – will be playing for the final spot available to host a playoff game.
In the Western Conference, four teams – Portland Timbers (46 points), FC Dallas (45 points), San Jose Earthquakes (44) and Colorado Rapids (42 points) – are competing for two playoff spots.
The Seattle Sounders FC and Minnesota United are tied for second in the table on 53 points. They play each other in Seattle at CenturyLink Field; the winner secures the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference.
The Los Angeles Galaxy can assure themselves of having a home game in the playoffs with a win over Houston. Last year, Houston’s win at Carson cost the Galaxy a spot in the playoffs. Zlatan and company are hoping to set the record straight this time.
Chasing the Golden Boot Award: LAFC’s Carlos Vela is tied for MLS’s most goals in a season record, set last year by Atlanta’s Josef Martínez, at 31 goals. If Vela scores Sunday, he gets the record. Currently at 29 goals for the season, LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic is chasing Vela for 2019 top scorer and the record.
Probing 2019 MLS Decision Day Questions:
Eastern Conference: Should Teams Watch out for the Revolution?
With the Eastern Conference qualifiers already set in stone, Atlanta versus New England looks to be the most interesting match of Round 34 on this side of the league.
Atlanta can lock up the number 2 seed in the East with a win against New England combined with a Philadelphia loss or draw.
Ironically, despite winning a lot of matches in their three-year history, the Five Stripes still have not won on decision day. In 2017, Atlanta drew 2-2 with Toronto FC at home. The following season, they were crushed 4-1 at BMO Field. On Sunday they’ll face a dangerous New England Revolution side that come into Mercedes-Benz Stadium on a high.
New England has been looking like a time on the rise under Bruce Arena, riding some serious momentum. New England clinched the seventh and final playoff spot in the east with a 2-0 win over top-seed New York City FC, a team that recently defeated Atlanta United 4-1 in the Bronx.
Toronto FC currently sit sixth in the table, just one point behind the Red Bulls from New Jersey.
Atlanta United has not done well versus the Reds, while the team from New Jersey has won in Atlanta before. It’s reason enough for Atlanta to want to avoid playing either of these sides right away in the first round of the playoffs.
New England comes into Atlanta with nothing to lose. They are in the playoffs, something that looked impossible until Arena took the helm. The pressure sits squarely on Atlanta United. This is Arena’s first visit to Atlanta with the Revolution. The way he sets up New England today could tell us how he may approach a potential playoff rematch. Expect New England to stay compact and look for the counterattack. Columbus Crew used this trategy in Atlanta on September 14th and came away with a win. Frank de Boer’s team failed to find the necessary attacking solutions, and were subsequently punished in transition. How will De Boer adjust? It should be a study in tactics.
Western Conference: Can Los Angeles Football Club Finish With The Most Points In History?
LAFC has been the dominant team this season, with only a couple of blips on the radar. They will likely use the final game of the season to remain focused. As the top seed, after this game they will have a first-round bye that will give them two-and-a-half weeks’ rest. With a win, LAFC have a chance to finish with the most points in a single season. Will they do it?
Can Colorado actually sneak in to the playoffs?
The Rapids had been building up momentum for months. After starting the season 0-9-2, they rallied under interim coach Conor Casey toward something resembling respectability. Robin Fraser took over as the Colorado Rapid’s head coach in late August, with his only previous managerial gig having been with Club Deportivo Chivas USA.
“By the end of the first session, I thought that not only were they a good team, that they have a really good spirit, and a lot of belief in themselves,” Fraser said. “That’s when I felt like this could be a really fun project.”
Now, on the last round of the season the Rapids have a chance, though admittedly a slim one, of making the playoffs. Can they do it? To reiterate, despite having started the season winless through 11 games the Rapids are still alive heading into the final round.
If Colorado upsets LAFC — the best team in the league, already owning the Supporters’ Shield and with the top playoff seed already clinched — and Dallas loses to Kansas City and San Jose loses to Portland, the Rapids are in. Even if the ‘Quakes draw with the Timbers, Colorado can still qualify through tiebreakers if they win by two goals or more. This ‘perfect storm’ isn’t exactly likely. LAFC is the top team, Dallas is at home, and Kansas City is playing only for pride. But wouldn’t it be a great story of overcoming odds?
Colorado has been scoring goals. Kei Kamara and Diego Rubio are both in the double digits (13 and 11, respectively), while Andre Shinyashiki and Jonathan Lewis have come on stronger. Fraser wants to inject a possession style of play but joining so far into the season has made that difficult. Yet he’s optîistic.
“I really admire the character of the team. They care about each other, and I think you see that in how they play, adds Fraser.”
No matter what happens on Sunday, that’s something to build on and carry over. And if they can get into the playoffs they will definitely be a team to watch.
Which club, thePortland Timbers or San Jose Earthquakes, will stumble into the playoffs?
Their game at Providence Park in Portland is the only semi-do-or-die matchup on the schedule in Round 34. Despite going a combined 1-7-3 in September, at least one of them will drag themselves into the playoffs on Sunday afternoon. Portland has played its last three games to a draw. Portland can lose this game and still get into the postseason torunament if Dallas also loses. The Earthquakes, who need a win, won the first meeting between the teams, 3-0.
There is a sense that both teams might be approaching unhappy endings.
This could very well be Diego Valeri’s last game as a Timber. Negotiations over a new contract have not gone well, and the two sides have different demands. Valeri has been the face of the Timbers since his arrival in 2013. He’s gone above and beyond — not just on the pitch, but as an ambassador in the community as well. Yet neither side looks likely to budge at the moment. This might be it.
Moving past Valeri’s situation, the Timbers have had a strange and trying year, summed up by Brian Fernandez’s goal drought and red card that has him suspended for this all-important finale.
San Jose sits just below the playoff line on 44 points. But if you had offered them this position at the beginning of the season — win one, final game and you’re in — surely they would have taken it. The club has done much better under head coach Matías Almeyda in his first year with the team, who has imparted an exciting style of play.
San Jose has slumped late, however. They have lost eight out of 10 since early August. Either opponents have figured them out or Almeyda’s physically demanding high press has ground them down. There are also rumours out of Mexico that Club de Fútbol Monterey are looking for a new manager, and, you guessed it, his name is Matías Almeyda.
Almeyda is a bigger name that most people realise, having been successful in his native Argentina and leading Chivas Guadalajara to the CONCACAF Champions League title just last year Earlier this week, he admitted that links with Monterrey and a return to Liga MX made him “happy.” How quickly the sand can shift in the world of soccer.
Is Seattle or Minnesota a real contender?
The victor of the Sounders-Loons game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle will lock up the No. 2 seed in the west, and home-field advantage all the way to the conference final. However, If Real Salt Lake wins in Vancouver and the LA Galaxy win in Houston, whichever side loses the match at CenturyLink Field would drop to fifth.
Seattle seems to feel rightly disappointed by this year’s performance: “I think anytime we don’t compete for the Supporters’ Shield, with the talent that we have, is a fail,” midfielder Cristian Roldan said this week.
“Maybe it’s more of a redemption-type game for us,” goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “We’ve had so many opportunities to make a statement game, and we’ve squandered quite a few of them. … We’ve been very, very fortunate. Let’s be honest. I think our season has been not the best. It was nice to finally start on top, but the remainder of the year has been a struggle. At some point, we have to make that statement.”
Minnesota has qualified for the playoffs for the first time. Their highlight moment of the season was a 2-0 away win at LAFC, which is also LAFC’s only loss since El Tráfico on July 19th. Carlos Vela was absent that match. But with the MVP favourite reinstated last weekend at Allianz Field, Minnesota still ground out a 1-1 draw. The Loons formula against Los Angeles was to stay compact, give LAFC possession in less dangerous areas, and have a ruthless mentality on the counter.
The Loons are playing with confidence, no matter the opponent.
Who Will Win The Golden Boot?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is second in the goal-scoring race with 29 goals. In fron is Carlos Vela of LAFC, who has 31 goals, a mark which places him in a tie with Atlanta United Josef Martínez for the most goals in a single MLS season. Zlatan had this to say:
“I am trying to score goals every game, that is part of my responsibility, part of what I have to do to help my teammates,” I have 29 goals in 28 games. If I would have the same amount [of] games like the other ones, it would be different. But now I’m chasing someone that has more games than me. If we score we score, we’ll have to see what the end number will be. If there still is a possibility, we’ll try.”
Still, the LA Galaxy star insists the ultimate aim is to achieve team glory.
“I prefer the collective win, when we win that game, that is more important,” he said. “With the collective success the individual success comes with it. If I can do good for my team, with my team, I know I’m doing good. I’m not focusing on the individual bonuses, I always say it’s like a bonus. Without my teammates those things would not be possible. If I win, it’s my team that wins. Whoever wins the Golden Boot has to think it’s not because of him, it’s because of his teammates.”
Credit to The Athletic for providing inspiration and perspective.
Transfers, Transactions, and Reports for the second day of the MLS Secondary Transfer Window:
Toronto Football Club
Toronto FC has been active in preparing for MLS’ Secondary Transfer Window by announcing the signing of Zamora F.C. (Venezuela Primera División) winger Erickson Gallardo, via the use of Targeted Allocation Money. Gallardo, 22, will be eligible to play this weekend as the Reds take on the Impact de Montréal at Stade Saputo, a/k/a “Le Classique Canadien” for those in Québec, subject to receipt of his International Transfer Certificate (“ITC”).
After making his debut in 2014, Gallardo has made 116 combined appearances for Zamora F.C. In the past three seasons, he made a total of 91 appearances (64 starts) and recorded 10 goals and 19 assists. Gallardo was part of Zamora’s last three league championships in 2015, 2016 and 2018. In the second leg of the 2018 Apertura Final, he scored the winning goal.
“Erickson is a talented attacking player that will improve our team. He has good character and is excited to earn the respect of his teammates, meet our great fans, and he and his wife are looking forward to settling into the City of Toronto,” TFC General Manager Ali Curtis said. “He has speed, can shift directions quickly and can open up the game for himself and others. Mid-season can sometimes be challenging to step into a new team, particularly for young, international players. With that said, we’re excited to get him going because we believe he can make an impact now, and in the future.”
He won his only senior cap with the Venezuela National Team in a June friendly draw against Ecuador.
Back on June 3, TFC made another key move by also acquiring U.S. International defender Omar Gonzalez on a transfer from Atlas Fútbol Club (Guadalajara) of Liga MX.
Toronto used its first-placeposition in the allocation ranking to sign Gonzalez using TAM (Targeted Allocation Money), subject to Gonzalez passing a medical exam, as well as the receipt of his ITC. He will then be eligible for the roster on July 9 when the transfer window re-opens.
Gonzalez, 30, was in his first season with Atlas, having made 36 appearances with two goals since joining the squad in July 2018.
“Adding Omar will improve our team. He is a great competitor that will approach every training session and match with a high level of intensity. He’ll also be able to add a greater presence in the air for us, both offensively and defensively. And, while he has won numerous trophies during his career on the club and international level, he is hungry to be part of championship team in Toronto,” said Toronto FC General Manager Ali Curtis. “We were looking for a very specific profile of player. Omar’s a good guy. He will fit in well with the group, and he will be a welcome addition to the locker room and daily environment.”
Gonzalez began his professional career after being selected third overall by LA Galaxy in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. In seven seasons with the Galaxy, Gonzalez made 223 combined appearances (MLS, MLS Cup Playoffs, U.S. Open Cup, Concacaf Champions League) with 17 goals and 13 assists. With the Galaxy, he won three MLS Cups (2011, 2012, 2014), two MLS Supporters’ Shields (2010, 2011), was named to the MLS Best XI four times (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014) along with MLS Defender of the Year (2011) and MLS Rookie of the Year (2009).
In December 2015, Gonzalez was sold and signed with C.F. Pachuca (Pachuca) of Liga MX. While with Pachuca, he made 87 combined appearances with three goals and four assists. Gonzalez won three trophies with Pachuca including, the Clausura Liga MX championship (2016), 2016 Liga MX championship and the 2016-17 Concacaf Champions League.
Gonzalez has earned 49 caps for the U.S. Men’s National team. He was part of the U.S. 2013 and 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup winning sides; and the roster for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. His most recent cap came on March 27, 2019 in a 1-1 friendly match against Chile. Gonzalez was recently on the U.S. squad for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.
“Greg gave me a clear picture of what the team is like, where he sees the team going and where I can fit into that picture. He sold me on coming here,” said Gonzalez. “Wherever you want me to play, I’ll do it. I’ll play my role; team comes first. On the left, on the right, it doesn’t matter. I’ve got to step up; do what I’ve got to do to help the team get wins.”
The addition of Gallardo, as well as defender Omar Gonzalez (who signed with TFC on June 3), gives Manager Greg Vanney the type of players that were much-needed – a pure winger and a big defender.
New England Revolution
Longtime dormant in the transfer marketplace, the decision to hire Bruce Arena as the sporting director and head coach in May came with it a pledge that he would have the latitude to invest in the roster. A veteran coach of Arena’s caliber would certainly not be interested in taking the job and continuing the club’s low-budget, penny-pinching (aka cheap) mentality.
That pledge turned into reality Wednesday, as the Revs announced the signing of Gustavo Bou as a Designated Player from Club Tijuana of Liga MX. It is reported that New England has paid a club-record transfer fee ($6-7 million USD) to acquire the Argentine striker.
The forward, who is nicknamed ‘La Pantera’, was the most expensive signing in the ten-year history of the Xolos. His professional career spans 12 seasons in the first divisions of Argentina, Ecuador and Mexico. He has scored 85 goals with River Plate, Olimpo de Bahía Blanca, Liga de Quito, Gimnasia de La Plata, Racing Club y Xolos de Tijuana.
“He’s an experienced player,” said Arena. “He’s going to help generate attacking chances for us – whether that’s scoring goals or setting goals up or moving in the right spots to help others. He’s a player with a lot of experience, a lot of quality, and a real good track record.”
Bou, 29 years old, brings knowledge and vast on-field experience to the Revolution squad. His reputation is that of a creative player who has demonstrated an ability to play across the attacking front four, but who is most comfortable on the left wing. “In a pinch he can play the number nine position – which he’s really not natural – and he can play the 10, he can play the seven, the 11,” said Arena. “He can play a bunch of spots. Positions close to goal is where he needs to play.”
Bou has been in form recently, with seven goals and two assists in his final six games with Tijuana, and has scored at least once in all six of those contests. He ranked in the top five league-wide in both goals (10) and assists (five) in Liga MX’s 2019 Torneo Clausura.
Bou will be available for the Revolution pending completion of his medical exam, and receipt of a P-1 Visa and his ITC.
Atlanta United made their sixth Homegrown Signing in club history on Tuesday, announcing that 18-year-old defender George Campbell has been signed to a homegrown contract, effective January 1, 2020. Born in Chester, PA, Campbell joined the Atlanta United academy in 2016-17.
“George has shown remarkable progress at each step in his development and he’s earned a professional contract with our club,” Atlanta United Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said. “As a member of our inaugural Academy teams in 2016, he’s worked hard to utilize the club’s pathway to the professional level, highlighted by his form in USL this season – most of which came before his 18th birthday.”
He’s spent a majority of the 2019 season with USL affiliate Atlanta United II, where he has 11 appearances. Campbell was named Man of the Match on his professional debut back in March, and has been one of the team’s top performers defensively.
Sporting Kansas City
Report: Sporting KC linked with Portuguese wing back Luis Martins
Sporting KC is hoping to make a few moves during the secondary transfer window and reportedly has been linked in serious discussions with one player so far.
According to the Kansas City Star, SKC is interested in Portuguese left back Luis Martins..
Martins was most recently with Portuguese side Chaves, where he joined in 2018. Chaves struggled in Liga NOS (Primeira Liga), Portugal’s top division, finishing in 16th place on 32 points and were relegated to the second division. Martins played in 15 of Chaves’ 34 league games, scoring one goal and playing another six games in Taça do Portugal competitions for Chaves this year. With their relegation this year, Martins and Chaves mutually agreed to terminate his contract with the club, effective June 30, 2019, which makes Martins available for Kansas City to sign on a free transfer.
Martin has also spent time with Benfica and Gil Vicente in Portugal and Spanish side Granada CF while appearing for Osasuna and Maritimo on-loans.
His arrival to SKC would give Peter Vermes another option in defense as the team is without several players due to injury. The club is recently coming off a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.
In order to sign Martins, Sporting Kansas City would need to acquire an international roster spot, which they can do via a trade with another MLS club.
Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami
It was previously reported here that Inter Miami CF have been linked with two Argentine players, Julián Carranza and Matías Pellegrini, and that deals to transfer these two players have been reached. While there is no word from Inter yet, based on what has been said about the timing of the first player announcement, we should hear something during this secondary transfer window.
Any players who are transferring to Miami during this window would likely be loaned out until the end of the year. (If the reports about Carranza and Pellegrini are correct, those players could be loaned back to their clubs in Argentina or elsewhere for the fall. As an aside, the Superliga Argentina will have a new format for 2019-20 , with 24 teams playing a 23-week season starting in July 2019 and ending in December. The second half of the year, January to May, will be set aside for the Copa de la Superliga.
“We’ll definitely have players signed by the summer,” Sporting Director Paul McDonough said, without getting into further details or a more specific timeline for their first player. “I want to make it a surprise.”
Los Angeles Football Club
Defender Niko Hämäläinen returns to Queens Park Rangers
Finnish-American fullback Niko Hämäläinen has left Los Angeles Football Club due to the conclusion of his loan with the MLS club.
Hämäläinen was loaned by the London-based English Championship (2nd Division) club in February 2019 on a six month term. His loan was not extended by LAFC. During his time in the City of the Angels, the 22-year-old made three appearances, including one start.
“We would like to thank Niko for his contributions to our Club during the first half of the season, and wish him great success moving forward,” said EVP & General Manager John Thorrington.
A former member of the FC Dallas academy, Hämäläinen joined Queens Park back in 2014 but has only made three league appearances for the club to date. QPR had also previously loaned Hämäläinen to Dagenham & Redbridge on a short-term loan in 2015..
The New England Revolution have appointed Bruce Arena the club’s sporting director and head coach, effective immediately. Arena is the winningest coach in United States Men’s National Team history and a five-time MLS Cup champion. He brings more than four decades of coaching experience at the international and domestic levels to the Revolution.
“Bruce is one of the most successful coaches in American soccer history, and we feel his commitment to excellence, track record of winning championships in Major League Soccer, as well as his success at the international level, makes him the best person to bring the Revolution back to MLS Cup contention,” Revolution Investor/Operator Robert Kraft said. “We have known Bruce dating back to the advent of MLS, and we have full confidence that he will raise the level of our club to the standard we all expect and demand.”
“It was evident when talking with Bruce that we share a vision for the future of the Revolution and we look forward to having him oversee our soccer organization,” Revolution President Brian Bilello said. “We believe that now is the time for a change in leadership and there is no one better suited to usher in a new era of success in New England.”
Backdrop To Arena’s Hiring
(Note: Includes edits and portions of reprinted article in The Athletic by Sam Stejskal)
After a 5-0 blowout loss to the Chicago Fire last Wednesday, May 8, the New England Revolution fired head coach Brad Friedel the next day.
He wasn’ttheonly problem plaguing the Revs. New England is a prime example of how not to succeed in today’s Major League Soccer.
Friedel was just 46 games into his tenure as head coach. The defeat was a good encapsulation of the myriad of problems that the former U.S. international faced in New England. The Revs had nothing in the way of attacking ideas, failed to finish the few opportunities they did create and made a slew of basic individual errors in defence to allow a five-spot against a Chicago team that had been shutout in three straight games heading into Wednesday’s match.
The loss was New England’s second consecutive five-goal defeat, dropped the Revs to 2-8-2 on the season and pushed their goal differential to a staggering -19. It was a pathetic performance, the type of game where you could almost see the players quit on their coach.
New England was justified in their decision to dismiss Friedel, but things won’t meaningfully improve for the Revs just because they’re changing managers. Even the soccer equivalent of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, the man who’s led Revs owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft to so much NFL glory over the years, would have a hard time fixing the myriad issues that come with how his bosses run their MLS team.
The Revs don’t spend on their first team and don’t pay transfer fees. They’ve been in the bottom half of the league in payroll in six of the last eight seasons and have ranked in the bottom three in three of those years. Being cheap makes it difficult to build a consistent winner in MLS, but it doesn’t make it impossible. As Kansas City, Dallas and Columbus have shown in recent seasons, low-budget clubs can thrive when they make smart signings, hire astute coaches and invest in youth development. New England has done none of those things under General Manager Mike Burns, who, despite mostly subpar results, has been with the club since 2005 and in his current position since November 2011.
It’s telling that Burns’ most impactful signing — Jermaine Jones — happened almost entirely by accident. The Revs weren’t even initially in on the former U.S. international, as a source confirmed that the German-born midfielder was seriously negotiating only with the Chicago Fire when he began talks to join the league following the 2014 World Cup. New England worked themselves into the picture in the latter stages, and the league eventually decided that they’d assign Jones to either New England or Chicago via blind draw. Commissioner Don Garber picked the Revs’ name out of an envelope and Jones ended up in Boston. Seriously. That’s how it worked.
Jones ended up teaming with playmaker Lee Nguyen to lead New England on a second-half tear that ended with a surprise appearance at MLS Cup 2014. Burns did an undeniably good job assembling that roster, which, in addition to Jones and Nguyen, featured veterans Jose Goncalves and A.J. Soares and promising youngsters Scott Caldwell, Andrew Farrell, Diego Fagundez, Kelyn Rowe and Teal Bunbury.
New England looked positioned to sustain their success, but they’ve gotten just about everything wrong in the four-plus years since they appeared in the final. Soares left for Norway as a free agent after the 2014 season, unhappy with the contract he’d been offered by New England. Jones was gone a year later, off to Colorado to help theoften-lackluster Rapidsto the second-best record in the league in 2016.
By the time Jones left, MLS was six months into its targeted allocation money era. Teams had been given the money to shop in better markets for better players. Some have used the extra cash well. The Revs have only fallen behind, having made a series of over-the-max signings that taken together are a cautionary tale of how not to spend. Michael Mancienne, Claude Dielna, Antonio Delamea, Benjamin Angoua, Luis Caicedo, Wilfried Zahibo and Krisztian Nemeth have ranged from mildly disappointing to utterly disastrous. Winger Cristian Penilla had a strong 2018, but he fell into Friedel’s doghouse over the last six weeks and didn’t even make the 18-man squad for Wednesday’s heavy loss. Striker Juan Fernando Caicedo has only been with the Revs a few months, but early returns have been middling at best.
Meanwhile, the young core that looked so promising in 2014 has either left or stagnated. Nguyen was traded to LAFC after a messy holdout in 2018. Rowehad issues with Friedeland was sent to Kansas City this past offseason. Caldwell, Fagundez, Farrell and Bunbury remain, but none have markedly improved since the club’s run to the final. Part of that falls on the individual players, but some of the blame lies with Friedel and his predecessor, former head coach Jay Heaps, both of whom struggled to develop young talent and both of whom were hired during Burns’ tenure as GM.
Things aren’t much better off the field. The Revs have only finished in the top half of MLS in attendance once in the last decade, barely managing that feat when they finished 10th (average of 20,184 per game) in the then-20-team league in 2016. It was the club’s highest average attendance since 1997.
The Revolution, however, remain invisible in a sports-mad market, where each of the other professional sports teams have great popularity, long traditions, and constant media coverage. Some say this is due to the suburban location of Gillette Stadium, tucked away in the hills of tiny Foxborough, Massachusetts and actually located closer to Providence, R.I. than downtown Boston. But that cannot be the reason, as the Patriots have called Foxborough home since the days before they were a winning team, and even back then fans drove from all over New England to see them play.
Editor’s Note: Access to the stadium is easy and parking is included in the price of the ticket. With the crowds the Revolution draw in a 67,000 stadium, there is never a traffic jam. That said, the sparse crowds make for a terrible soccer game day atmosphere.
Despite their longstanding irrelevance in the region, the team’s business operations have been led by the same man, president Brian Bilello, since the 2012 season. Bilello, who has been with the Revs in some capacity since 2003, and Burns both have difficult jobs.
The Krafts don’t give them the same level of resources as most of their more successful counterparts around the league, and becoming a real player in the crowded Boston sports scene while stuck in Foxborough is a tall order when you don’t employ one of the best coaches and one of the best players ever to play your particular sport, as the Patriots do.
But to stick with the same leadership in the face of so little progress, or, in the case of the on-field product, flat-out regression, raises real questions about how much the Krafts care about the Revs. To be fair, the Krafts, along with the Hunt family and Phil Anschutz, sunk millions upon millions to keep the league afloat when it was on the brink of going under in the early 2000s. They deserve credit for that. It shouldn’t be forgotten.
But it’s also fair to ask if they’d tolerate this type of mediocrity from the Patriots. The Patriot Way works with Belichick and Brady. It hasn’t with Burns and Bilello. Would the Krafts let their NFL franchise languish for so long near the bottom of the league in payroll, results and attendance without holding their top executives accountable? If not, why on earth should they do so in the face of such lackluster results from the Revs?
There isn’t a good answer to that question.
All is Not Lost: Positive Steps
Thankfully for New England, there are a few ways forward. Better coaching and smarter management should lead to better results, which will naturally lead to better attendance in Foxborough.
New Training Centre
The Krafts are starting to open the wallet, too. They’re spending $40 million on a state-of-the-art training facility that will open at Gillette Stadium late this summer.
They were reportedly on the brink of committing $14 million total in transfer fee and salary to sign midfielder Paul-Jose M’Poku from Belgian club Standard Liege before the deal broke down over personal terms earlier this week. Even being in discussions to spend that kind of cash on designated players and TAM signings should lead to better things in New England.
A real step forward would be to finally build a stadium of their own in or closer to Boston. Boston is a densely-populated, older city, and it’s not easy to find the land needed for such a task.
According to sources, the club is working on finding a soccer-specific home of their own in Boston proper. Two separate sources have gone as far as to say that the club is on the brink of securing a stadium site. One of those sources added that the architectural plans are near completion, and that the Revs would be ready to break ground on a stadium shortly after receiving approval, should it come.
But the club has been down this road before. Too many times to count, really. Plans have been leaked, sites have been teased, hopes have been raised. They’ve all been dashed. Maybe this time will be different.
Editor’s Note: This is one of the many stadium plans in and around Boston that have not succeeded:
Perhaps the Revs will soon build the first open-air pro sports stadium in the city of Boston since Fenway Park was constructed in 1912. The club would certainly get a huge marketing boost if they do, and the Krafts, per those two sources, would start to spend significantly on their roster if they build a stadium.
But all that’s worthless unless shovels actually hit the dirt. Until then, the Revs are stuck in Foxborough. And while their ceiling is certainly lower there than it would be at their own soccer-specific home in Boston, they can still consistently succeed on the field and find a measure of relevance off of it while at Gillette.
In addition to hiring a new coach and potentially seeking new execs for New England, to achieve those two objectives, will require increased attention, investment and accountability from ownership. It’ll require the Krafts to start driving real, long-term solutions for the Revs.
It’ll require them to stop beingtheproblem.
In the wake of how this season has gone for New England, the club, on May 13, 2019 released General Manager Mike Burns.
“As an original Revolution player and throughout his time with the club’s front office, Michael has always been a terrific ambassador for the club,” said Revolution President, Brian Bilello. “His impact on the team and organisation has been felt in many ways and we are grateful for his commitment and service to the New England Revolution.”
With regard to next steps for the club, Bilello said, “In light of recent results and the team’s on-field direction over the last few seasons, we felt it was time to take the soccer side of the organisation in a different direction. We expect to make an announcement related to leadership of the soccer organisation in the coming days.”
Miami, FL (Friday, January 18, 2019) by Kenneth Russo –
New England Revolution announced today that they have signed a highly coveted prospect as a Homegrown Player.
His name is Justin Rennicks, and he is a United States U20 forward who just completed an outstanding sophomore (2nd) season at Indiana University. Rennicks will forego his final two seasons of eligibility with the Hoosiers. Rennicks’ season for Indiana in 2018 included earning Second-Team All-Big Ten and First-Team All-North Region honours. He scored six goals on the year, including three match-winners, and started all 20 games he appeared in for IU.
“Justin was a talented and productive player during his time in our Academy, and he further distinguished himself at Indiana University and in the U.S. Youth National Team system,” Revs general manager Michael Burns said. “After monitoring his progress closely over the last two years, we felt this was the right time for Justin to take this next step in his development and join the first team.”
Rennicks was a key contributor on the United States U20 side that won the Concacaf U20 Championship in November and is expected to play a key part of Tab Ramos’ side in Poland at the U20 World Cup.
During his time at the New England Revolution Academy, Rennicks scored 38 goals and 25 assists and was a three-time Academy Player of the Year.
On a lighter note, I can say with experience that he and his family have certainly logged a lot of miles on I-495.
Related on Russo Law & Soccer:
What Is The Homegrown Player Rule?
Major League Soccer has a complex set of rules that govern how the rosters of its clubs are filled. There is also a salary cap, with players occupying roster spots and having a “salary budget charge.”
An academy player may be signed as a “Homegrown Player” if he has been placed on a club’s homegrown player list and has met all necessary conditions. A detailed explanation of the Homegrown Player Rule can be found at: MLS Homegrown Player Rule