The New England Revolution's newest acquisition Andre Akpan, is a familiar face to some, as he was a record-setting local hero at Harvard. However, for most in New England the professional version of Akpan is almost an entirely unknown quantity.
So just who is Andre Akpan? And what can he bring to the table? I caught up with Dave Martinez, the Editor and Chief of Empire of Soccer (of the NY Red Bulls), to give us some more information about the Revolution's new signing.
How would you describe Akpan as a player and teammate?
"Akpan was a standout performer with the Red Bull reserves. In fact, he was last year's leading scorer. As far as being a locker room guy, Akpan is the model for the term. He is beloved by several of his teammates as you may have seen on social media today."
What can he bring to the table for a team that is in desperate need of rejuvenation?
"I don't think either the Red Bulls or New England should look at this trade with the idea that it will be a catalyst. As Petke put it, this is a "like for like" deal; a swap of two players who just did not fit in where they currently were. At present, the Revolution jettison a player who seemed to be a locker room cancer while adding a quality depth player to their side. What grows from that is anyone's guess."
For a guy who is 6'1 190 lbs. how does he use his size and bulk as a target man?
If you are looking for a bulldog forward like a Connor Casey, Akpan is not that. He also isn't a gentle giant aka Kenny Cooper. Akpan works best as a target man and can certainly hold his own physically. Of course, it is simply difficult to gauge his quality in a limited playing window. He hasn't had to endure the rigors of a full season. It is also questionable that Heaps offers him that time to develop either.
What are his strengths/weaknesses?
"People will point to Akpan's Ivy League education as a strength, but I find that to be shallow. In a limited time with the reserves, he has been able to find the back of the net. Even when he rode the bench with the first team, he still was a team player; not being disruptive, but instead, supporting his side. That speaks volumes for him as a professional. What he can do in extended minutes -- particularly with the Revolution's one-man forward formation -- remains to be seen."
Why was it he saw so little game time in NY?
"He is sitting behind Thierry Henry and the current MLS Golden Boot leader. Further, Tim Cahill and Peguy Luyindula, on resume alone, would out rank Akpan. New York is not a friendly environment for young strikers."
So, there you have it. It wasn't Juan Agudelo who walked through the door, but that wasn't expected. Akpan could be an exciting prospect that could vie for the lone striker role. For an inexpensive signing, he seemingly brings a combination of physicality and finesse as well as a level head. However, with Charlie Davies is coming off of a few strong performances, and Patrick Mullins chomping at the bit, he will have to compete for minutes. But who knows? Maybe a breath of New England fresh air and a duck tour will bring the big target man to life.