The New England Revolution had a season that exceeded expectations by many standards, and the front office should be commended for putting together a competitive squad with relatively good depth, not to mention pulling in indispensable pieces such as captain Jose Goncalves and striker Juan Agudelo. But as good as this team was, it ultimately fell short, bowing out of the playoffs in the first round to a more experienced side in Sporting Kansas City.
The Revs now prepare for the offseason. And while the players themselves will get some much-needed (and much-deserved) rest, the front office has their work cut out for them as they start building their roster for the 2014 campaign. While we all know full well that there are some important pieces that need to be added, I wanted to take a look at the squad as it currently stands and breakdown who I think will stick around and who might be moving out of Massachusetts this winter.
For today's analysis, let's take a look at the Revolution's defenders...
The New England defense put together an impressive campaign and was one of the most stubborn backlines to break all season. But no one was more important than Jose Goncalves, whose future is quite uncertain at this point. Signs point to both he and the Revolution wanting to extend his time with the team, but it seems that working out the option-to-buy clause in the Revs' loan agreement with FC Sion is the only hurdle left standing in the way. If they can reach an agreement, then fans should expect their captain to return for at least another season--I feel optimistic.
Goncalves' central defensive partners, A.J. Soares and Stephen McCarthy, are more than safe in my opinion. The two basically split time this past season and while not perfect were quite satisfactory in their roles. The fourth centerback option is Darrius Barnes, who saw no time at this position this past season, but who I still believe will be a Rev in 2014. Barnes' versatility gives him a leg up on his competition. Having a bench option that can play anywhere across the backline is a great piece to have and this is the main reason why I think he'll stick around.
But, for fullbacks (Barnes excluded), I think the only three players who can safely be considered as returning next year are Chris Tierney (who extended his contract this past season), Andrew Farrell (who had a remarkable rookie season), and O'Brian Woodbine (who signed in the summer window and whom Jay Heaps has said bluntly that he will factor into the Revs' plans in 2014). That leaves Kevin Alston, Bilal Duckett, and Tyler Polak on "the bubble", so to speak.
Duckett and Polak both spent the season on loan with the Rochester Rhinos. Duckett appeared in 19 games for the Rhinos, clocking 1,416 minutes and tallying one goal on the year. Polak appeared in one less game for the Rhinos at 18 with 1,161 total minutes being played. Despite the seemingly comparable stats, our own Brendan Doherty, whose finger is ever on the pulse of the Rhinos beat, maintains that Duckett worked himself into regular roster rotation much more so than Polak. He can also play either flank while Polak is purely a left-back. With all that considered, Duckett seems more likely to stick around than Polak, but I would not be surprised if both parted ways with the Revs this winter, especially considering the mid-season acquisition of Woodbine.
Kevin Alston is a big question mark in my book. On the one hand, he's been a reliable option for New England since they drafted him in 2009. He, too, can play both right back and left back (although Jay Heaps seems to prefer him on the left ever since he switched him there at the end of the 2012 season), and is very quick and pacey, making him a circumstantial starting option when the Revs are up against a team with fast wingers. However, despite his speed, Alston has come under criticism for his poor positioning, lack of width, and the fact that he offers little to the Revolution attack. Having been beaten for his starting spot on both sides by Andrew Farrell and Chris Tierney, Alston was purely a bench option in 2013 when he was healthy. He of course spent the majority of the season tending to his abrupt diagnosis of chronic myelogenous leukemia, and there may still be question marks surrounding that situation as well (though I cannot say that I am informed on his status with regards to his illness).
Unfortunately for Alston, his versatility does not exactly do him any favors as all three of Woodbine, Barnes, and Duckett can provide cover on either side of the backline (as we've discussed), and are pretty fast themselves. In my opinion (I stress the word "opinion" here), Alston seems like a candidate for either a trade within the league or the 2014 Re-Entry Draft. If not him, then one of Duckett or Barnes will be surely on their way out (while the days are already numbered for Polak, in my mind). Alston's $194,000 guaranteed price tag has a lot to do with this opinion as well. The combined guaranteed compensation for Woodbine, Barnes, and Duckett is less than that.
Yes, the Revolution boasted an improved and truly impressive defense in 2013. But that does not mean that there is no work to be done in the off-season. On the contrary, there is always work to be done every off-season and the defense is surely an area that needs tinkering.
My predictions for off-season roster moves:
Staying - Jose Goncalves, Stephen McCarthy, A.J. Soares, Darrius Barnes, Chris Tierney, Andrew Farrell, O'Brian Woodbine
Going - Tyler Polak, Kevin Alston, Bilal Duckett
What do you think? Who will be sticking around in 2014 and who will be shown the door? Let us know in the comments section below! And be on the lookout for the continuations of this piece when we look at the Revolution's goalkeepers, midfielders, and forwards!