According to a team press release this morning, the New England Revolution has re-signed three players: defender Kevin Alston, defender Darrius Barnes and goalkeeper Luis Soffner. Per club policy, further terms of the deals are not being disclosed.
"We're pleased that we have been able to bring Kevin, Darrius, and Luis back to the Revolution," General Manager Michael Burns said. "Each player could have chosen a different path but wanted to return, which was important to us. Both Kevin and Darrius have been valuable members of this Club for the past five seasons and are reliable, proven veterans. They are both professional in the way they conduct themselves both on and off the field. In the case of Luis, we believe he has the potential to become a solid goalkeeper in MLS and look forward to his continued development."
Alston, 25, returns to the club for his sixth professional season after the Revolution originally drafted the Indiana University product in the first round (10th overall) in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. Alston ranks 10th on the club's career appearances (121) and minutes played (10,265) charts and ninth on the career starts chart (118). He has four career assists in league play. Up through March 2013, he started every game in which he was available for - playing both right and left back through his career - but following his diagnosis with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) in early April, he took a leave of absence from the team to undergo treatment. He returned to the field on July 27 at D.C. United and finished the season with nine appearances and six starts. At the end of the season, he was honored as the 2013 MLS Comeback Player of the Year.
Barnes, 27, also returns to the club for his sixth professional season after the Revolution originally drafted him out of Duke in the third round (40thoverall) in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. Barnes has made 98 career appearances - 87 starts - while playing every position across the back line, including center back, left back and right back in both three- and four-defender formations. Barnes has also added one goal and one assist. As a rookie in 2009, Barnes started all 30 games and played all 2,700 minutes - becoming just the second rookie in league (and team) history to play every minute of every game. Barnes has also started all four MLS Cup Playoff matches the team has played during his Revs tenure.
Soffner, 23, enters his second professional season after the Revolution selected him in the second round (36th overall) of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. While he did not make a first-team appearance in 2012, he appeared in one preseason game with the Revolution, drawing a win in the team's 4-1 victory over Phoenix FC (USL PRO). Soffner was a four-year starter at Indiana and backed the Hoosiers to the 2012 NCAA Championship while earning NCAA College Cup Most Outstanding Defensive Player honors. He started 83 of 84 career matches at Indiana, and as a senior, posted an 0.72 goals against average with 12 shutouts. His 16 wins as a senior were the most at IU since 2004 (19). In his collegiate career, Soffner was 47-26-11 with an 0.93 GAA.
It's encouraging that the Revs were able to hold onto this trio of players, particularly Barnes and Alston who have been critical pieces of the Revolution's defensive puzzle since coming to Foxboro. For Alston, many suspected that he might be traded elsewhere in the league after losing his starting job on either side of the back line to Andrew Farrell and Chris Tierney in 2013. Couple that with the fact that his salary of $145,000 was far too high for a back-up, it seemed like a trade may in fact be in the works. But, without knowledge of what might have gone on behind the scenes, it seems to be that both parties were able to find a (presumably) smaller contract to agree upon for the upcoming 2014 season.
Barnes' versatility has always been his strongest asset, allowing coach Jay Heaps to plug him in anywhere along the back line and feel confident in the veteran's ability to fill the role capably. With Alston re-signing and also the addition of fullback O'Brian Woodbine this past summer, Barnes might find himself more of a 4th-string center back rather than a back-up outside defender. All that aside, Barnes has shown that he has a firm place on this squad and he'll be expected to continue to push for minutes under Jay Heaps in the upcoming season.
With Luis Soffner, the Revolution is able hang on to a young keeper with an impressive pedigree to his name to serve as a back-up for the upcoming season. It's unclear how the battle between Bobby Shuttleworth and Brad Knighton will play out, but Soffner will be expected to push both in training for minutes and opportunities. But more than that, Mike Burns' comment may suggest that Soffner is in New England's plans for the future rather than a more immediate figure in the Revs' upcoming campaign.
It may not be the most exciting Revolution news, but it's news nonetheless. And now, with the roster up to 20 players, we can see how 2014's squad is starting to take shape.