The New England Revolution’s new Designated Player isn’t expected to arrive until July, but head coach Jay Heaps believes that he's worth the wait.
Xavier Kouassi first caught the attention of the Revolution coaching staff while they were scouting in Switzerland. Operating as a holding midfielder, Kouassi was successfully shielding the FC Sion back line from a dynamic 4-3-3. Heaps and company had gone overseas in search of a physical, ball-winning midfielder and they had found just that.
"All of a sudden we saw him play," Heaps said during a conference call on Monday. "It was pretty clear in front of us what we were seeing. He cuts out passing lanes. He can play the six, the eight. He drives forward into the attack."
Kouassi’s profile soon grew as FC Sion advanced in the Europa League. The 26-year-old’s impressive performances against the likes of Liverpool helped draw suitors, making it a bit harder for the Revs to sign him. Ultimately, a move to the United States proved to be what was best for Kouassi.
"You sit down with the player and have that big conversation of how they want to proceed with their career and their next challenges and I thought we fit really well into what he was trying to do," Heaps explained. "And we feel that he fits into what we’re trying to do."
The Revs tried to purchase Kouassi outright so he’d be available for the start of the season, but were denied, proving that the Ivorian is an important piece for FC Sion. The midfielder remains a regular in team’s starting Iineup and serves as their captain. The Revs will now have to wait until July for their DP, though it’s possible he arrives sooner.
With this in mind, the Revolution will continue their preseason prep, looking to Daigo Kobayashi, Zachary Herivaux, Steve Neumann, or a new signing to play alongside Scott Caldwell. Heaps has confidence that his players will be able to get the job done.
When Kouassi does arrive, the long negotiation process, which included multiple overseas trips, will bear fruit. And Heaps believes everything will be worth it.
"I think he’s a player that we want to have for the future," Heaps commented. "When he get him in July, great. If we can get him here sooner, even better, but at this point we’re planning on July."