While there is a case to be made that the Revolution have question marks in every department as they enter the off-season, there is perhaps no area more uncertain than in the final third. The Revs found considerable success in 2013 thanks to a breakout year from boy wonder Diego Fagundez and of course the mid-season acquisition of U.S. International Juan Agudelo, while a much improved Dimitry Imbongo and an effective yet streaky Saer Sene also contributed as well. But the turnover in 2014 looks like it may be substantial and there will be some tough decisions that need to be made at Gillette Stadium in the coming month.
Jay Heaps deserves a wealth of credit for tinkering with his formation until he found one that worked. Ultimately, the decision to move Diego Fagundez out to the wing was the most beneficial change as it allowed the young starlet to find more freedom in the final third while relieving him of the burden of holding up play, something he struggled with mightily in 2012. Fagundez's talents are optimized out wide where he can take on defenders in 1v1 situations and then use his intelligent soccer brain to either pick out a decisive pass or put in a quality shot on frame in or around the 18-yard box.
Fagundez is arguably the most important player on the Revolution roster, and luckily for us he extended his contract with the Revs at the beginning of the season. If 2014 is as successful as this past season, then he will be in high demand by this time next year. That said, it seems that he has intentions to stay local for a bit longer and we should get another one or two solid seasons out of him, if not more.
Dimitry Imbongo, as previously mentioned, had a surprisingly improved season in 2013. Let's face it, based on what we saw of him in 2012, expectations were understandably low. In fact, many anticipated that he might have been loaned to Rochester in the weeks leading up to the start of the season. But it's clear now why Jay Heaps opted to keep him in Foxborough. Imbongo's best attribute for New England is his physical hold-up play. In the mold of someone like Steven Lenhart or Conor Casey, Imbongo has the tools to be an effective target man in MLS.
Although Dimitry racked up a respectable 3 goals and 4 assists on the season, he also accumulated 5 yellow cards and a whopping 3 red cards as well. That said, the Imbongo who began the 2013 season was a vastly matured player by the end of it. He played a very significant role in the Revolution's late-season playoff push, and there's reason to be optimistic for his future with the Revs. It's worth noting that he has expressed ambitions of playing at a high level in Europe someday (in an interview that I remember reading a while back but can't seem to find now), so how long he will remain in New England is unclear. But I think it's safe to expect him back in 2014 and anticipate an even more integral role in the Revolution's attack.
Imbongo's contributions in 2013 are noteworthy, but they barely hold a candle to what Juan Agudelo brought to this Revolution team. Unfortunately, Agudelo has moved on to greener pastures. Or, wait, maybe he hasn't? The fact of the matter is, Juan wants a move abroad, and he wants it now. His plans to join Stoke City have been foiled as of yesterday, but I'm sure he has plenty of other suitors lining up to acquire his signature. There's a slim chance that he'll opt to return to MLS for another season (or half season), in which case you could probably put money on him being in a Revs kit once again. But New England fans shouldn't hold their breath.
With Agudelo gone, there are some seriously big shoes to fill. One player who I do not expect to fill them is Chad Barrett. Barrett had some glimpses of promise this season, but lacked consistency on the whole. Part of the reason is that he struggled to get any playing time, finding himself at the bottom of the pecking order for the Revolution's strikers in 2013 (thanks in large part to the emergence of Imbongo). He was a serviceable piece to the puzzle, but not exactly a game-changer (except for, of course, his crucial late-game goal against Chivas USA). I expect the Revs to part ways with Barrett, who commanded a $105,000 salary this past season. Even if they can bring that number down, I believe that the Revolution will feel they can do better.
One such player who may prove to be a big contributor next season is Charlie Davies. Although Davies came in on loan from Danish side Randers FC in the summer transfer window, all signs point to his move becoming permanent for the upcoming season. While this is not a forgone conclusion just yet, Davies has made it very clear to the media that he expects to be in Revolution navy blue next year and that he's been told as much by Heaps and his staff. Part of that deal will be his willingness to take on and adapt a winger role rather than a typical target forward. Davies will need to train hard during pre-season to learn his new role if he wants to see any significant game time next season. Whether the experiment pays off of not, though, is anyone's guess.
Speaking of guesses, who knows what will happen with Matt Horth. Yeah, remember him? The Revs signed Horth last winter from NASL side the Atlanta Silverbacks. He spent the season on loan to the Rochester Rhinos. Horth played 863 minutes for the Rhinos scoring one goal and tallying one assist. Despite his pedestrian attacking output, Horth saw a lot of playing time thanks in part to the season-ending injury to Rhinos striker Matt Luzunaris. With their forward ranks thin, Horth rotated with fellow strikers Tam McManus and former Rev Blake Brettschneider. It's unclear what the future may hold for Horth, but smart money seems to be that he'll be departing Foxborough by the New Year.
Saer Sene's future in New England isn't exactly any clearer than Horth's. Before his season-sending injury against the Montreal Impact on October 12th, there was a fair share of rumors circulating the internet regarding interest from French Ligue 1 for securing his services this winter. At the forefront seemed to be FC Sochaux, who currently sit at the very bottom of the league table with 7 points and only 11 goals scored through 13 games. Yeah, you could say that they need some help with their attack. And a move back to his homeland seemed to make sense for the 27-year-old, who has made it clear in the past that he'd like to return to Europe one day. Had it not been for his injury last month, I'd predict him to be gone this winter. But now I'm not so sure. His recovery is expected to be about 4-6 months, which would put his return somewhere around the beginning of the 2014 season or perhaps about a month or so into it. It will be wait and see with Sene this off-season, but I'd expect him to be staying put with the Revs at least until the summer.
Oh, and last but not least, there's our designated player to talk about. The failed experiment that we call Jerry Bengtson will not be a Rev next season. In fact, he even admitted it himself. Bengtson started off the season with such promise, scoring the game-winner in the season opener against the Chicago Fire (his only goal of the season in MLS play). But it was all downhill from there. Bengtson's absence will help free up some cap space and hopefully the New England front office can use it towards bringing in someone new who fits in with Heaps' system more capably.
My predictions for off-season roster moves:
Staying - Diego Fagundez, Dimitry Imbongo, Saer Sene, Charlie Davies
Going - Juan Agudelo, Jerry Bengtson, Chad Barrett, Matt Horth
What do you think? Who will be sticking around in 2014 and who will be shown the door this winter? Do you think Saer Sene's injury keeps him with the Revs for another season? Will Dimitry Imbongo take on a bigger role as the #1 target striker? How will New England replace the effectiveness of Juan Agudelo? Let us know in the comments section below!