What happens now, as the New England Revolution begin life after Shalrie? (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Most of us are still smarting after this morning's news of the Shalrie Joseph trade broke. The New England Revolution will never be the same, and whether you agree with the trade or not, you can't say it doesn't send shockwaves through this community.
That said, the world is not going to end. Tomorrow, the sun will rise, and there will still be an MLS team in New England. On Saturday, that MLS team will face off against SKC at Gillette Stadium, and although Shalrie's imposing profile and distinctive dreadlocks won't be there, the rest of the team will.
So how does this club move forward? What has this trade done to this club, and what is the plan for the final stretch of the season?
Firstly, the Revs have acquired a new player. Blair Gavin was a guy who was highly-touted coming out of college. He helped the Akron Zips (coached by US U-23 head coach Caleb Porter and a modern football factory) to the 2009 NCAA Championship game, and played alongside some of the SuperDraft's best picks in recent years, like Darlington Nagbe and Teal Bunbury. He was also a member of the USA U-18 and U-20 player pool.
In his three years in MLS, the 23-year old Gavin has made 43 appearances, scoring three goals and tallying five assists. Those aren't gaudy numbers, but they aren't bad, either. What's more worrying is that he is apparently injury prone; Gavin's 2010 season was ended prematurely due to a hamstring problem, and that same injury dogged him all through 2011, limiting him to 18 appearances, 11 of them starts.
Basically, Gavin seems like a bit of a project player. He obviously has the potential to deliver the goods at the MLS level, but issues with injuries and maybe a shift in philosophies (Robin Fraser was hired in 2011, the year after Gavin was drafted) have stunted his growth. A change of scenery may be exactly what he needed, so the Revs could be getting a decent player out of this deal.
Secondly and thirdly, the Revs acquired a draft pick and allocation money. Draft picks are notoriously hard to predict and are not necessarily a good indicator of future success, and allocation money might as well be black magic and wizardry for all anyone knows.
Thus, it's probably more important to focus on what this means in terms of finances and roster space for the Revs. Shalrie Joseph was a designated player, meaning he was on the books for $350,000, unless New England was inexplicably using allocation money to buy down that number. Blair Gavin, meanwhile, is earning a much slimmer $60,000 paycheck, according to the MLS Players' Union. For those of you who struggle with math, that's $290,000 saved on the budget.
That much extra cash certainly sets the wheels spinning in people's minds, especially when one considers that New England has a free roster spot lying around. Plus, unless the Revolution traded an international roster spot and it slipped under the radar, they have an international slot open, too. Frankly, the Revs are poised for another blockbuster move for an overseas player.
This doesn't have to be an international player; the name on everyone's mind is Carlos Bocanegra. The Revs have the top allocation spot, Rangers is playing in the fourth tier of Scottish soccer, it's been hinted that MLS has had discussions with the player, and Jurgen Klinsmann will not abide his captain playing at a level possibly below college soccer. Honestly, the stars are aligned for a Bocanegra move stateside, and the question really becomes whether or not he wants to play for the Revs.
Then again, if Bocanegra remains under contract with Rangers, he can't technically move to MLS until January, because the league's summer transfer window is closed. That's a rule that can be easily circumvented if Rangers releases Boca from his contract, if Boca is no longer under contract (no one's really sure about this), or if MLS elects to fudge its own rules to make the deal happen. The latter is not at all outside the realm of possibility, as sometimes it feels like every big move the league makes is against its own rules.
If not Bocanegra, then who? The Revs have a pretty complete roster for the first time in years; at this point, the only moves that make sense would be moves that replace a current starter with a better player. Luckily, having DP-esque space under the cap (and allocation money to make sure it stays that way) gives the Revolution the flexibility they need to go out and get the player they want, and pay for the quality needed to replace someone already on this roster.
Defense appears to be the biggest Achilles heel for the squad so far, and would explain why Bocanegra seems to be the guy everyone wants. Jerry Bengtson's Olympic form suggests that he might be the answer with Sene up top, so signing a DP defender (or near-DP) would not be a poor move for the Revolution. In fact, it would be the most logical at this moment.
Unfortunately, there's one more possibility lurking here: the Revs do nothing. There are 13 games left in the Revolution season, and they sit ninth in the Eastern Conference, tied with the Union on just 23 points. Philadelphia has two games in hand. The chances of New England climbing the table and squeaking into the playoffs are slim to none. Sean Donahue at New England Soccer Today pointed out that they're as dire as 4.2%.
Hasty late-summer moves have a tendency of not panning out, and that's something the Revs are intimately familiar with. Milton Caraglio was a late-summer addition, and he fizzled out. So, too, did Monsef Zerka, and that was just last season.
Freeing up all of this space could be a move that looked to the offseason rather than to a lost 2012 season. Bringing on Jay Heaps and changing the youth and culture in this club was probably just step one of what will be a long and dramatic rebuilding process for the Revolution. Shipping Shalrie out was probably a necessary step, but not a step that demands immediate action, either. The real fireworks could be saved for the winter of 2012-13. If that's the case, get used to the Revolution you see right now, because for the rest of the year, that's all you're going to get.
What do you think the Revs will do now that they've traded Shalrie? Is Boca coming to Boston? Is there another move on the cards? Or will they do nothing? Let us know in the comments!