In 2012 the Revolution midfield was deep, talented, and extremely versatile. Heading into the 2013 season the question looming over everyone's head? How will the Revs cope without Benny Feilhaber?
With the draft taking place in Indianapolis tomorrow afternoon, you can certainly feel the sense of excitement as the 2013 MLS season draws ever closer.
Perhaps a subject just as exciting is the current state, and potential, of the Revolution midfield. The Revs enter the new season with a little bit of everything in their midfield: youth, experience, pace, power, and even a little bit of attitude.
While the departure of Benny Feilhaber, and the process of replacing him, is no small task to complete, the resulting feeling of relief across Revs Nation upon his release should serve as an indicator of how the fan base felt about life without him.
Last year's team MVP, Lee Nguyen returns with what now seems to be a bigger role in the midfield, and as the season draws closer, I continue to get the feeling like we could see Nguyen in Benny's central role.
The team went out and signed two central midfielders in Khalifa Cisse and old favorite Andy Dorman, however, both players tend to have more of a defensive, holding mentality in the middle of the park. So, unless New England plans on either going out and making a move in the January transfer window, or drafting (and starting) a CAM, it looks like the CAM will come from in-house, and I'd have to say that Lee Nguyen could flourish in that role.
As far as the outside wings are concerned, the Revs certainly settled into a preferred rotation last season, with Lee Nguyen manning the left flank, and the combination of Kelyn Rowe and Fernando Cardenas platooning out right.
Heading into 2013, it looks like the right midfielder job should belong to Rowe, given the departure of Cardenas, but with Lee Nguyen perhaps moving into the center of the field, the left flank now becomes a question mark.
Does Ryan Guy fit into the mix anywhere in this conversation? I almost feel like I've accepted the thought that the best shot Guy has of making the lineup is by going the Stephen McCarthy route and changing positions. If a move to RB isn't in the cards for Ryan Guy, he'll provide solid depth on the flanks, and could perhaps fill in the middle in a pinch.
Revs fans all seem to forget about Juan Carlos Toja, given his late arrival in 2012 and minimal contribution, but make no mistake, with a full offseason, and a healthy start to the year, Toja is more than capable to play the left flank role, as well as the CAM if need be.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Revs post without mentioning our own Soccer Beiber, Diego Fagundez. Jay Heaps was rather wise last year to give Diego a little bit of time in the midfield late last year, and as a surprise to a few, he excelled there and truly blossomed. Good pace, good vision, and the confidence to dribble at defenders and make things happen are all desirable qualities, and Fagundez showcased them all down the stretch in 2012. Could Heaps start the season with the youngster in the starting XI? Perhaps.
Lost in the mix? Clyde Simms. At times in 2012 Clyde Simms' performances were so good and professional, you wouldn't hear his name for periods of time on the broadcast. The consummate pro, no frills or flash, just good, solid defending and leadership. With the addition of Dorman and Cisse it will be interesting to see if his role diminishes at all, but if you ask me, Clyde Simms is too good to not be on the pitch on my team.
Looking into the upcoming draft, there are certainly some highly touted prospects in the midfield should the Revs decide to go that route. While I don't feel like the midfield is too pressing a matter, you never know what the Revs may have up their sleeve on draft day.
Mikey Lopez, North Carolina. The Generation Adidas midfield prospect is the perfect attack-minded, flowing CAM prototype. Good vision, a competitive tenacity, and solid frame to withstand MLS's tough style.
Carlos Alvarez, UCONN. Dazzled at the combine. Good pedigree (father played for Chivas Guadalajara). Another fine prospect with CAM ability.
Dillon Powers, Notre Dame. Scored a goal that impressed at the combine, and showed some pretty skills on free kick chances. Would be a flyer at #4, but if he falls in second round? Why not?
Kyle Bekker, Boston College. Awfully easy to draw the BC-New England parallel, but there's one other thing to mention: the kid can play, and has great quality.
The midfield is by far the Revs' greatest strength going into the new season. Strength in quality, depth, and versatility will all come into play as the Revolution begin their ascent up the league table in 2013.
In the comment section below, let's get our starting midfield debate going! Who's starting, and where are they playing on the field?