The 2016 MLS season is just around the corner, but there are still plenty of questions about the state of the New England Revolution. Let’s take a look at some of the most pressing issues.
1. Will Gershon Koffie and Scott Caldwell work well in the midfield?
When news broke that Koffie would join the Revolution, pundits immediately penciled his name alongside Caldwell’s. The pairing just makes sense as Koffie is a hard-nosed central midfielder while Caldwell is a disciplined player who does the gritty, behind-the-scenes work. That said, we still haven’t seen the two players share the field yet. Is this the opening day pairing? If so, will it be effective enough?
2. What will happen with Jermaine Jones?
This question has been addressed a million times, but it’s still worth asking. Jones is without a contract and doesn’t appear to have a lot of options. Time is ticking for both the player and his former team. Will the Revs take him back or have they officially moved on? Stay tuned to Jones’ social media pages for any breaking news.
3. Will Xavier Kouassi play in 2016?
Although he isn’t a house hold name, there was plenty of hype surrounding Kouassi when it was announced that he had signed a Designated Player contract with the Revolution. Unfortunately, Kouassi soon suffered a right knee injury which will sideline him for at least six months. The Revs will likely want to be cautious with the 26-year-old, especially given the reputation of Gillette Stadium’s turf. Will Kouassi play during the latter months of 2016 or will his debut come the following year?
4. Who’s the starting right back?
Between Darrius Barnes, London Woodberry, and Jordan McCrary, the Revs have three good options at right back. They don’t, however, have a standout. Barnes is a veteran who’s solid defensively but doesn’t contribute much offensively. Woodberry is the opposite. He can whip in a great cross but is sometimes suspect on the other side of the ball. McCrary is raw but has the athleticism you’d want from a defender. Houston is a difficult place to start the season, so who will Jay Heaps turn to?
5. Is the defense good enough?
Regardless of who plays right back, there are some definite questions about the back line. The Revs have conceded four goals in two Desert Diamond Cup games. The most concerning performance came against Real Salt Lake when the Revs allowed three goals despite having a man advantage. Obviously preseason results shouldn’t be over-analyzed, but you have to at least be thinking about the back line.
6. What about Sambinha?
It seems that Andrew Farrell and Jose Goncalves have locked down the center back spots to start the season. However, don’t rule out the possibility of Sambinha contributing some serious minutes. The 6’1 defender has impressive size and is eager to impress while on loan from Sporting CP. Could the 23-year-old become the next Goncalves? Only time will tell.
7. Can Charlie Davies and Juan Agudelo co-exist?
Agudelo’s return to New England was highly touted, but it was a different striker who grabbed headlines in 2015. Davies continued to write his inspirational story by recording a team-leading ten goals last season. The New Hampshire native has shown no signs of slowing down ahead of the new year as he’s already nabbed three preseason tallies. With Davies on fire, you’d imagine that Agudelo will start on the bench, though he could be used as a wide midfielder. Will the competition inspire greatness or lead to frustration?
8. Who will score the goals?
In 2015, the Revs shared the goal scoring responsibility as Davies had ten goals while Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, and Agudelo had seven. Diego Fagundez followed close by with six. While it’s good to have a roster where the goals can come from anywhere, it’s also important to have a go-to scorer. Nguyen was that man in 2014 while Fagundez carried the burden in 2013. The offensive output of both players appears to have been an anomaly. As a result, the Revs need to find a striker in the vein of Taylor Twellman. Will that be Davies, Agudelo, or someone else?
9. Who will be the breakout star of 2016?
It seems like every year produces a breakout star. The 2013 season brought us the emergence of Fagundez while Nguyen dazzled in 2014. Caldwell drew league-wide attention in 2015, officially shedding the title of "unsung hero." Who will grab the spotlight this season? One early favorite is Rowe.
10. How will the Revs round out their roster?
With less than two weeks until first kick, it appears the important pieces are in place. That said, there are still empty roster slots. Some of these slots will be filled by current trialists while others will remain unused until the summer. Of the current unsigned players in camp, Jeb Brovsky and Michael Gamble will likely earn contracts. The Revs are also likely to add either Trevor Spangenberg or Matt Turner as their third goalkeeper.