The season is done. Times have definitely gotten tough - as they've tended to do over the past three seasons. Our New England Revolution have only won one of their last twelve games, but we are rebuilding. We were rebuilding last year too. The year before that as well. The year previous to that was just a shell-shock of realizing we weren't good anymore, so counting that as part of this "rebuilding process" may actually be a bit disingenuous. But now, now it is time to look ahead.
That's right, it is time to start gearing up for next year even whilst this year is still being played out before us. The word around the interwebs is that New England should be a team to watch next year. That they may have underperformed a little this year with a mostly new squad and a new head coach. They say that once they gel next year, they could be spectacular -- stop me if you've heard that one before.
Still, truthfully, this new core of players is more fun to watch, though seemingly equally as frustrating. At the end of last year, we were pretty sure we had a solid core with Shalrie Joseph, Benny Feilhaber, Rajko Lekic, Monsef Zerka, and Milton Caraglio in tow. They were the future. They were going to lead us back to the promise land. Now only one of those players remains, and just barely at that; however, it appears as that this current squad may, in fact, have a much higher ceiling than last year's team. With that in mind, we need to remember that MLS contracts are secretive. Fans don't know length (in most cases) or money (never), so we can only guess what this roster will look like next year.
Looking at this year's remaining roster, I have broken the players down categorically. There are the players that need to be back next year no matter what; the players that baring them wanting an exorbinant raise or a really good trade offer should come back; the players that would be nice to re-sign, but wouldn't be the downfall of the team if they didn't; there are the guys that if they left no one would probably notice; and there are the guys who I am absolutely clueless about.
Category 1: Bring them back, or I will fly up to Gillette and burn it to the ground!
Lee Nguyen, Saer Sene, Jerry Bengtson, Diego Fagundez, Kelyn Rowe, Clyde Simms
It is clear why I feel this way about Nguyen and Sene. Bengtson, to a lot of the people I follow on Twitter, seems to either be hit or miss. I say give him a year, the guy has huge potential. While Diego has not made the leap we had all hoped for, he has been very good these last few games. And while certain bloggers at this very site have referred to him as Diego Bieber, he has shown that unlike the holder of that pejoratively used surname he may just be able to have a more mature game later on. Rowe could probably be in the second group after what - in my opinion, based on my own overhyping of him and his performance in the preseason - was more or less a disappointing rookie year, but I have a good feeling about him for next year. Simms, well without him we'd still have Shalrie, so he better be here next year...oh yeah, and he's pretty damn solid too.
Category 2: Do as much as you realistically can to keep them, but if something better comes along, I get it.
Benny Feilhaber, A.J. Soares, Ryan Guy, Florian Lechner, Juan Toja, Fernando Cardenas
Benny Feilhaber has possibly become one of the most devisive Revolution players since I've followed the team with any sort of seriousness (circa 2002). He could be one of the greatest MLS players ever, but he could also be a huge distraction. A.J. could be in Category 1, but he has taken a step back this year. Ryan Guy is a great utility player, but not a star. Lechner I've grown to love and at other times hate, but he has displayed a fire and passion that this team needs. Toja, after one game, is proving that he could be great again. Cardenas, just needs his energy focused (though he could easily be moved to Category 3).
Category 3: If we have a roster spot to fill, and nothing better is out there, then okay.
Kevin Alston, Stephen McCarthy, Matt Reis, Chris Tierney, Darrius Barnes
Matt Reis has been great, but how many years does he really have left? I want him back, but I want an heir apparent even more. McCarthy and Tierney are fine MLS players, they will probably never be more than that, and that is okay. I like both, I'd be happy to see both back, but if either were replaced, I'm not sure I'd shed a tear. I like Darrius Barnes, I think he brings leadership to the team; however, it might be time to move on. Kevin Alston could have been a contender...he could have been somebody, instead of an average MLS right back, which is what he is, let's face it.
Category 4: There's got to be something else out there...right?
Bobby Shuttleworth, Blake Brettschneider, Tim Murray
Shuttleworth is not Reis's heir apparent. He'd be a great NASL keeper and there's nothing wrong with that. but I lay no faith in Shuttleworth being the Revs' goalkeeper of the future. Brettschneider needs to go...'nuff said. Tim Murray is a third-string goalkeeper, why am I even discussing him?
Category 5: Um...I don't even know who this is
Blair Gavin, Sainey Nyassi, Tyler Polak, Alec Purdie, Michael Roach
Due to a lack of time this season, I can't fairly place any of these guys. I don't think Gavin will be here next year, Nyassi will probably also be gone. Meanwhile, I'm over the top for Polak's potential - and have been since before he was drafted. Purdie and Roach? Well, hopefully they'll get some time in the last few games so we can categorize them for next year.