Towards the beginning of the season, we here at the Bent Musket took it upon ourselves to predict how the season would unfold. Of all the areas that people voted on, the one area that was widely spread out on votes was the Revs' defender of the year. Only one person picked Jose Goncalves.
Looking back, I don't think anyone - including that voter - had any idea of the impact that the Portuguese loanee from FC Sion would have. Ending last season, most believed that one of the primary off-season goals for the New England Revolution would be to strengthen its backline. The first move was to sign Kaliffa Cisse, which everyone thought would do it. Then the Revs FO went out and quietly brought in Jose Goncalves.
With just over half the season gone, this appears to be the move that did it. Now a team that leaked goals at the end of games last season is holding on for draws and late wins. Currently, New England is tied with the Portland Timbers for least Goals Allowed. A good portion of that is due to JoGo.
The man that has become the Revs' permanent captain is, however, still on loan. This immediately brings in the fear that he will put in a great 2013 and then not return for 2014. The Revs do not have a great track record of keeping on loaned players for more than the length of their loan, so this is a justified fear.
Typically MLS requires a "purchase" price to be included on all loaned players. In essence, all players who are loaned to MLS are "loan with an option to buy" players; hence, it would be relatively safe that Jose Goncalves could be bought from FC Sion, and based on the fact he was not playing a lot there it is probably a reasonable fee. Still, Sion, who is under new management, could turn down the offer even if it was a pre-arranged price. The LA Galaxy had Juninho (the good Juninho) on loan for seemingly forever before finally getting him out from under Sao Paulo's roof, but that was only after his Brazilian club released him. Meanwhile, Fredy Montero began his MLS career as with Seattle on loan from Deportivo Cali. When he became a full-time sounder it was as a Designated Player.
The Revs, to my knowledgehave never done either such thing. They did, however, buy Jerry Bengtson and make him a Transfer Fee DP, which essentially means the only reason he counts as a DP is because his transfer fee is split up over a few seasons. Milton Caraglio's DP tag was also due to a loan agreement, and they chose not to bring him back for the next season, so who knows if he would have counted as a DP then.
Perhaps, MLS's Retention Funds alone could work to keep Jose on for another season, but would Sion agree to that? I'd imagine that Sion may want to bring him back to Switzerland. Then again, maybe like with Juninho, the Revs could get them to bring it back. Though, perhaps the only way to keep him in New England would be to make him a Transfer Fee DP.
If you look at the vast majority of DPs in Major League Soccer, they generally fit into only a few molds. Very rarely (Shalrie Joseph, Torsten Frings, and maybe a few others break that mold) are they more defensive minded players. This is because many believe that DPs should only be used to lure in big name stars, goal scorers, or big name goal scorers. JoGo is none of those things. What he is is a proven commodity. That said, there are probably cheaper defenders the Revs could go after. Yet, this is the guy who their defensive revival was built around.
He makes huge defensive stops. He helps mold Stephen McCarthy into an even better centerback. He helps Bobby Shuttleworth become arguably the best keeper in MLS. He - apparently - scores game-winning goals, as he did on Saturday. He is tabbed as the frontrunner for the MLS Defender of the Year. He is the guy who has been the center-piece of a suddenly strong back line . He has assumed the captaincy of a team that is no longer just floundering. But often times if someone is brought in as a DP - even a Transfer Fee DP, you end up stuck into a deal even when a player is not performing.
Opposingly, Jose Goncalves is not going to score a lot of goals. He is not going to put new butts in the seats. He is not going to be featured by local companies in commercials. Using a DP spot could also tie the Revs into a salary for years. Maybe, to play Devil's advocate, Jose Goncalves is playing beyond his means this year and will ultimately regress hugely if brought back; and if a DP spot is used to buy him, it would be very difficult to get equal value back. Additionally, many would argue we could get pretty good center backs without having to use up a DP spot or even the Retention Fund (go back to AJ Soares and Macca, perhaps?). But would the team lose something bigger with the loss of Jose Goncalves?
For a team that has a poor DP track record (Bengtson, Caraglio, Josephs) it could be an interesting alternative to turn a guy still in his prime (unlike Shalrie) into a DP. So, it would seem like a no-brainer to pay a DP fee to buy Jose from Sion, but what do I know?
I'm only the one guy who picked Jose Goncalves as our pre-season Defender of the Year.