It’s been another quiet December for the Revolution, who—through the first few weeks of the offseason—have yet to add fresh talent to its roster. While other Eastern Conference clubs have begun to fill their roster holes, the Revs have sat tight, taking a slow-and-steady approach that has become typical of the Jay Heaps era.
As the holidays approach and the offseason rolls on, we put together a list of our top Revolution wishes. Who—or what—tops our list?
Year to year, the biggest ask before an MLS team is whether or not it can replicate the previous season's success. It's something that made Bruce Arena's LA Galaxy teams and Dominic Kinnear's Houston Dynamo sides so special. Even Steve Nicol's Revs teams of the mid 2000s can be grouped into that elite category. For all, an MLS Cup run was never a flash in the pan, but a testament to a longstanding culture of success and professionalism.
In the case of Jay Heaps' squads as of late, there's always been the sense of limitless potential. The talent was there, the system was in place and greener pastures seemed around the corner. This was tangibly true following the 2014, Jermaine Jones-led run to the MLS Cup, as a strong core was in place to make 2015 and 2016 the years when it all started to click. After all, the likes of Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez, Andrew Farrell, Scott Caldwell, Juan Agudelo and Chris Tierney aren't too shabby. But, as Revs fans know all too well, silverware never came. Instead, a loss in the playoff's first round (2015) and absence from postseason play (2016) followed suit.
In my opinion, there's one reason for this: stagnation. The star players didn't reach another level, Jay Heaps' 4-2-3-1 formation couldn't crack opposing defenses and the roster as a whole appeared stale. While other MLS teams were experimenting – Oscar Pareja's FC Dallas side fused South American stars with homegrown talent, the Colorado Rapids opted for a defense-first approach and Toronto FC ran the gamut with a 3-5-2 formation, among others – the Revs offered up much of the same. There was little ingenuity from the organization as a whole, and the rest of the league solved New England's Rubik's cube, so to speal. Granted things got interesting when Heaps went with a 4-4-2 diamond formation late in the 2016 season – namely it let the Agudelo/Kei Kamara partnership thrive – but one could strongly argue it was too little too late.
So, as 2017 rolls around, it's essential that the Revs keep on reinventing themselves. Those who can lead the squad deep into the playoffs – be it Rowe, Nguyen, Farrell, Agudelo, or Xavier Kouassi – must push the envelope each and every week. Settling for mediocracy must be something that makes the Revs' stomachs sick, while anything less is deemed unacceptable. Now is the time to keep on progressing, or else New England could fall far behind the MLS pack. Saint Nicholas, is that too much to ask for? - Jon
2. Playing time in Rochester
We've all lamented at the loss of younger players like Patrick Mullins, Tony Taylor and Femi Hollinger-Janzen in recent expansion drafts. But where the Revs are really hurting in youth development is the lack of loans to Rochester. Last season the Revs had a paltry three appearances (one each for defenders Donnie Smith and Jordan McCrary and departed midfielder Michael Gamble) for the Rhinos last year which is a shame since we've seen the benefits of extended time at the USL level.
Donnie Smith hasn't gotten a lot of minutes at MLS but has solidified himself as the backup left back to Chris Tierney in New England. Players like Steve Neumann, McCrary and Gamble could've benefited from additional minutes this season on loan since MLS minutes were scarce for them in 2016. Even Femi probably should've gotten enough appearances to be postseason eligible for the Rhinos, who lost to RBNYII in the East Semifinals.
Another curious loanee success is Matt Turner, the Revs fourth keeper after the signing of Cody Cropper late in the season. Turner made seven appearances for the Richmond Kickers (who are DC United's USL affiliate) and allowed just three goals in seven starts. Turner was perhaps the most interesting player who had his contract option picked up, but certainly his time in the USL has given the Revs enough of a reason to keep him around. What the Revs need to do give more players the opportunity to play at the USL level to help their development and keep them ready for when they're needed with the Revs first team. With all the injuries and a short roster last year, opportunities for lower division minutes were limited. That can't happen again next year. - Jake
3. A physical, veteran center back
Collectively, we've longed for A.J. Soares' replacement since the center back left for Europe following the 2014 season. London Woodberry has shown flashes of promise over the past two seasons. And Je-Vaughn Watson has offered stable versatility. But when it comes down to it, the Revs have yet to acquire a center back with the grit and soccer IQ Soares provided.
With Woodberry and Watson both returning, the Revs have solid depth pieces already in place. Add a physical, veteran defender to the mix, and the back line suddenly feels infinitely more stable. Could this be the year?
Of course, if Jose Goncalves does not return (his contract expires on December 31), the Revs will need to add a pair of center backs. It sounds like a big ask, but even Ralphie Parker eventually got his Christmas wish; a center back is my Red Rider air rifle. - Nick
What about you? Who—or what—tops your holiday wish list? Drop a comment below.