Ah, Christmas. The time of year where people around the world make lists of their desires. As a dedicated reader of The Bent Musket, I can predict that somewhere on your list (whether it's written or not) is the elusive MLS Cup. With this in mind, grab some hot chocolate and let's take a look at what else is on your soccer wish list.
With Patrick Mullins, Dimitry Imbongo and Geoffrey Castillion gone and Jerry Bengtson in Argentina, the only pure striker currently on the roster is Charlie Davies. Davies' New England renaissance was inspirational, but there's no question that more help is needed. The front office should be looking for a classic number 9 along with another speed option. Competition at the forward position will be imperative to success in 2015.
2. A Center Back
A.J. Soares, the club's reigning Defender of the Year, is expected to join Serie A side Hellas Verona, which creates a huge void in the Revolution's back line. Captain Jose Goncalves is penciled in as one starting center back, but who will serve as his partner? Andrew Farrell, whose future is likely in the middle, appears to be the most prominent candidate. Can the Louisville product make a seamless transition or will the club have to look elsewhere?
3. Another MVP-Caliber Year from Lee Nguyen
I don't expect another 20-goal season from Nguyen, but I do think he can repeat as a MVP candidate. Nguyen was unstoppable in 2014, scoring or assisting on 47% of the Revolution's regular season goals. While he was influential all year, it was clear that he was afforded more freedom after Jermaine Jones' arrival. A full year of that midfield partnership will surely benefit Nguyen. His goal total, which was the highest in a single season for a pure midfielder in MLS history, won't be touched, but Nguyen should have more than the five assists he collected in 2014.
4. More Jermaine Jones
Jones has surpassed expectations since joining the Revolution. On the field, he has been a midfield general who can break up a play before completing the killer pass that ignites the attack. Off the field, Jones has been an entertaining personality that provides the media with a good quote and takes the time to make memories with the fans. Jones is currently operating on an 18-month contract that will keep him in New England through 2015. This contract also has a one-year option that will likely be exercised if Jones continues his stellar run of form. This would be fine because more Jones is a good thing. For the record, I am fully on board with a Bravo reality show about the Jones family.
5. A Resurgence for Diego Fagundez
With five goals (tied for second best on the team) and four assists (tied for fifth), Fagundez didn't necessarily have a bad 2014. It was, however, a step back from the breakout season he had the year before. Regardless of his down year, Fagundez still landed at number five on MLSSoccer.com's 24 Under 24 and recently accepted a call up to the Uruguay U-20s. The future is bright for Fagundez, who has two years remaining on his current contract.
6. Further Progression for Bobby Shuttleworth
It took some time, but Shuttleworth has finally found his legs as a starter in MLS. Shuttleworth was clutch during the playoffs and the weeks that preceded them. The Buffalo native is still prone to unnecessary rebounds and unpredictable passes, but another year as number one should help eradicate these issues.
7. A Healthy, Productive Year from Kevin Alston
When he's on his game, Alston is arguably one of the best full backs in MLS. A versatile defender who can play on either side, Alston has the speed to neutralize others while also getting himself into the attack. Alston was recognized as a MLS All-Star in 2010 and was called into camp for the US National Team soon after. Unfortunately, hamstring issues have hindered Alston's development. Jay Heaps and his coaching staff still have faith in Alston as he was one of eleven players protected during the Expansion Draft.
8. A New Contract for Teal Bunbury
Although he was one of the most polarizing players on the roster last year, Bunbury deserves a new contract. Originally brought in as a replacement for Juan Agudelo, the former Sporting KC player found a home on the flank. As a target winger, Bunbury tormented defenses with his speed and heads up play. Let's not forget that his shot/cross nearly got the Revs their first MLS Cup in franchise history. Bunbury seems to like New England and the team should respond by re-signing him for years to come.
9. A New Collective Bargaining Agreement
Major League Soccer is entering their 20th season but a new CBA must be agreed upon before First Kick can happen. Player and league representatives are hard at work hammering out the details to the new guidelines and one can only hope that the two parties come to terms before March rolls around. After all, a lockout would be devastating to the growth of the league.