Another preseason has nearly come to a close in Tucson, Ariz., which means the final Revolution roster has started to take shape.
New center backs Antonio Mlinar Delamea and Benjamin Angoua have begun to acclimate. Rookies Brian Wright, Napo Matsoso and Joshua Smith have made an impact in friendlies. And a crowded group of trialists, led by forward Tristan Bowen, have earned valuable pre-season minutes.
With six open roster slots at his disposal, Revolution General Manager Mike Burns should have at least one roster move in the works. Will he sign an unsigned rookie? Or will he pursue a trialist instead?
Two weeks ahead of the 2017 season opener, we offer solutions to the Revs' biggest roster holes.
1. Depth for the defensive midfield
Once a position of great strength, the defensive midfield now faces questions with Xavier Kouassi's uncertain fitness level and Zachary Herivaux's undiagnosed injury. Assuming Kouassi doesn’t dress for week one, Jay Heaps will have a decision to make. Does he start veteran Daigo Kobayashi, or move Scott Caldwell—who is expected to play as a wide midfielder in Heaps' diamond midfield—back into a defensive role?
In either scenario, Heaps would benefit from a depth piece (normally Herivaux) who could occupy space in the middle of the field.
Solutions: Napo Matsoso (unsigned rookie), Emmanuel Appiah (trialist)
Though undersized, Matsoso represents the likeliest candidate to emerge from the crowd. The second-round SuperDraft pick has historically played bigger than his 5-foot-6 frame and could develop into a serviceable box-to-box option.
Appiah would provide quality as a secondary option, though has shown a tendency to turn the ball over in the middle of the field.
2. A wide-pushing midfielder
The Revolution have no shortage of attack-minded central midfielders. In fact, the club faces something of a logjam with Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe both vying for minutes in the number 10 role. Nguyen figures to win this battle again, leaving Rowe and Caldwell—neither of whom offers great width—to occupy the wide midfield spots.
To account for this deficiency, the Revs need a midfielder who can stay wide and create chances from the flank.
Solution: Tristan Bowen (trialist)
Throughout his MLS career, Bowen—a former LA Galaxy Academy signing—has shown the ability to use his speed to create from the wing. He still prefers to cut inside, and doesn't offer more than average service, but plays comfortably in an outside midfield role and could serve as a firestarter off the bench.
3. An emergency center back
After entering the off-season in dire need of two starting center backs, the Revolution answered the call by acquiring Delamea and Angoua. Yet even with these defenders on board, the club would still benefit from added depth to support London Woodberry. Je-Vaughn Watson featured centrally in 2016, but offers the most value as a backup to Andrew Farrell.
Solution: Joshua Smith (unsigned rookie)
Fourth round picks rarely succeed in MLS, though Smith has impressed in limited minutes this preseason. If signed, he would immediately become the tallest player on the Revolution roster at 6-foot-4 and has already shown the ability to win challenges in the air. The San Francisco product would need time to develop, but would serve as an intriguing project if the Revs give him a chance.