For the third consecutive offseason, the Revolution have a glaring need: to solidify the center of its back line. With Je-Vaughn Watson and London Woodberry splitting time beside Jose Goncalves in 2016, the club conceded 54 goals, 10 more than it scored.
Now, the Revolution have a decision to make. Will the club bring back Goncavles, who is currently out of contract? Or will it cut ties and move on?
Our staff offers input on the best way forward.
Nick: Re-sign Goncalves
After earning Defender of the Year honors following his first season in Foxboro, Goncalves regressed from 2014-2016. Some of this regression should have been expected; Goncalves is now 31 years old, and has played for 10 professional clubs in six countries.
Yet even with such a seasoned motor, Goncalves has served as a consistent presence along the Revolution back line. He's averaged 29.5 starts over his four seasons, offering strong, physical defending and steady leadership. No Revolution player has worn the captain's armband more than JoGo since 2013.
Because adding a veteran center back already represents an off-season priority for the Revolution, Goncalves' value increases. If the team doesn't re-sign him, it will likely feature a "center back by committee" approach for the second consecutive season, as it seems unlikely the the club will acquire two quality center backs this offseason. The fastest way to improve in 2017 is to re-sign Goncalves, add a proven center back during the transfer window and rely on Woodberry and Watson as depth pieces.
Seth: Let Goncalves go
Goncalves was unreal in his debut season with the Revolution, as he played every minute of every game en route to winning the league's Defender of the Year award. Since then, the center back hasn't been the same. During his most recent season, Goncalves committed some major mistakes, though that could be blamed on the fact that his partner was always changing.
Overall, Gonclaves has been a good player for the Revolution, but with his contract now expired, it's time to go in a new direction. The Revs coaching staff has been scouting in Europe, South America and the Middle East, and the hope is that they will ink a couple of experienced defenders that can rejuvenate a back line that was underwhelming last year.
Jake: Re-sign Goncalves
We're several months into the offseason in New England and, judging by the fact that the club doesn’t even have any rumors of any possible deals from abroad (and the team is currently three centerbacks short on the depth chart), you have to assume at this point that Goncalves will be returning to Foxboro. And there's nothing wrong with this. JoGo might not be his 2013 self, but he's still a good defender and could use another stable partnership like he had with A.J. Soares a few years ago. The rotating group of Watson, Farrell and Woodberry among others hasn't helped build the necessary chemistry with the back line.
Another interesting wrinkle will be the eventual debut of Xavier Kouassi at the holding midfield spot. JoGo speaks a lot of different languages and Kouassi, at the time of his signing, didn't know a lot of English. It might be Jose's communication skills, along with his veteran presence and leadership, that benefit the Revs on the field despite any regression Jose is making physically. As long as JoGo randomly shields a guy off the ball for 20-30 years every now and again, I'll think he's fine.
Jon: Let Goncalves go
The Revs have a glaring hole at the center back position, but that doesn't mean Goncalves is the answer. Through personal decline or mismatched pairings, the 31-year-old is a long ways from channeling his 2013 MLS Defender of the Year form. He's no longer the head coach Jay Heaps' first choice to don the captain's armband, either—that distinction belongs to Lee Nguyen. Furthermore, Goncalves started 28 games in 2016 en route to New England posting a -10 goal differential, the league's second worst total.
Given all those facts, it's time for new blood in the heart of defense. Goncalves etched out quite a career with the Revs, but all good things eventually come to an end. And for Heaps' squad to reach its ultimate goal—winning an ever-elusive MLS Cup—Goncalves may not be part of the solution. Instead, it would behoove the Revs to draft a collegiate center back to build the club around or look to the international market.