With a minimum of four players being loaned to the Rochester Rhinos this season as part of their newly announced affiliation to replace reserve league participation, the New England Revolution have some tough decisions to make in the next couple weeks. Here I've broken down who I think are the likeliest candidates to make the move to New York in March.
Jay Heaps has been joined in Tucson this week by Rochester Rhinos head coach Jesse Myers and his staff to assist in the evaluation of those players currently in camp and to help determine who would benefit-for the Revs, the Rhinos, and the player himself-with a loan to Rochester. I've decided to apply my educated observations about the current roster and try to narrow down who might make the most sense to start off the season in New York. There are some players I feel very confident will be packing their bags while some others are just sort of on the bubble.
1. Tyler Polak (probably) - Polak struggled to find minutes last season, even after Chris Tierney was injured in the last few games (Jay Heaps instead opted to shift Kevin Alston to the left and employ Ryan Guy at right back). And now the Revs have brought in even more full-backs this offseason. This all adds up to a Rochester loan for the young Generation Adidas draft pick, in my mind. And to be fair, he is likely to benefit the most (arguably) from a loan, as he will probably be able to get the first-team minutes that he needs to further develop. The Reserve League was doing Polak no favors towards this in 2012.
2. Dimitry Imbongo (probably) - We knew Imbongo was a "project" right off the bat when he was signed last summer. He's shown glimpses of promise-using his size and physical style to out-muscle MLS defenders-but still lacks the vision and pace that he needs to succeed in the league. A loan to Rochester, even if for just half a season, could serve the Frechman well. Otherwise, he will be looking at Matt Horth and Chad Barrett as his immediate competition in Foxborough, and something tells me that both of these players might be higher in the pecking order.
3. Matt Horth (maybe) - The same that was said for Imbongo could be applied to Horth. The two are essentially battling with each other for the same spot in the pecking order. They are similar types of players in that they have size and strength, but Chad Barrett, when healthy, will most likely be the top option behind Jerry Bengtson/Saer Sene/Diego Fagundez. It's a toss up between the two, really, and will probably be decided by their performances in this pre-season camp. However, it doesn't make much sense to me to pluck Horth out of Atlanta just to move him over to Rochester-seems like a lateral movement to me. I think Heaps and co. plan on seeing Horth ply his skills to the MLS-level.
4. Sainey Nyassi (maybe) - Nyassi is a wildcard because he seems to still garner plenty of praise from Jay Heaps and his staff, yet he hasn't really ever shown the quality that Revs fans have come to expect from him when he was first brought in to New England. Defenders of Nyassi's spot on the Revolution roster often point to his speed, which by all accounts is very impressive. But lately that seems to be the full extent of his game. Not only that, but the Gambian is coming off a season where he spent at least 80% of it injured and not playing. Nyassi has the potential to truly shine in Rochester, perhaps even spending some time as a striker and developing into that role.
5. Gabe Latigue (maybe) - I say "maybe" for Latigue because, well, he isn't signed yet. The Supplemental Draft pick has seen a lot of minutes this pre-season and has, by most accounts, been very impressive on the right wing. But with Kelyn Rowe, Ryan Guy, and Andy Dorman to compete with, it might make the most sense for Latigue to spend a season with Rochester. Again, this is just if he is signed.
6. Luis Soffner (maybe) - I fully expect Soffner to be signed by the Revs before the season starts. But whether he goes to the Rhinos or not will probably depend on whether Heaps wants to keep three keepers with him in Foxborough or not. A loan move to Rochester doesn't make much sense to me, because I feel that he wouldn't get the same benefit of playing more minutes like outfield players would. Unless of course he were to win the starting spot. My money is on Soffner sticking around with the Revs.
So, those are my thoughts. But let us know who you think might be inhabiting the "Revolution Rhino-house" come March in the comments below.