As the New England Revolution fight for an MLS Cup, their second team, New England Revolution II, has been busy crafting their roster for the 2021 USL League One campaign. On Monday, November 30th, Revs II announced a lengthy list of offseason moves.
First and foremost, Revs II declined player options for four members of last season’s squad. The group headed out of Foxboro includes Ryo Shimazaki, Keegan Meyer, Mayele Malango, and Simon Lekressner.
Perhaps the most intriguing name on this list is Mayele Malango, a winger who made 14 appearances and six starts last season. At times, Malango flashed unparalleled ability on the ball, gliding through defenders with ease. But these intoxicating spurts were infrequent at best, and with only one goal, his inconsistency proved to be his kryptonite.
We didn’t get to see much of Lekressner or Shimazaki for Revs II, and for that, I’m slightly surprised that the team decided against resigning them. Taken in the second and third rounds of the 2020 MLS Draft, respectively, I had high (ish) hopes for the two defenders. In particular, Simon Lekressner is a name I wish we could’ve seen in 2021; the defender started Revs II’s first game, but after suffering a knee injury 45 minutes into the match, he was sidelined for the rest of the season.
Another departure is Orlando Sinclair, whose loan expired this offseason. This isn’t necessarily bad news for Revs II; Sinclair only managed two goals in 13 starts for the team. I joked earlier this season that Adam Buksa would better suit the striker role for Revs II, as it always seemed like a stronger striker would better fit the starting lineup. Sinclair frequently struggled in hold-up play—which made it hard for Revs II to escape robust offensive presses from their opponents—and was also spotty in front of goal, never giving the impression that he made the opponent’s defense uncomfortable. His deficiencies in front of goal were brought into crisp view after Justin Rennicks scored four goals in eight appearances for Revs II, setting a standard that Sinclair couldn’t meet.
On the flip side, Joe Rice, Jon Bell, Maciel, Ryan Spaulding, Connor Presley, and Tiago Mendonca all saw their 2021 player options exercised. There aren’t many surprises here, as each of these players played significant roles on last season’s team.
The one surprise might be Connor Presley, who didn’t appear to be a long-term piece of Peay’s puzzle. The winger failed to score a goal and notched just one assist in over 1,000 minutes last season. According to USL League One’s metrics, he did complete 16 key passes—ranking second on the team, only behind Firmino (22)—but the Texas native never passed the eye test. His softness within the 18-yard box, coupled with his poor crossing ability, compounded the issues on Revs II’s attacking unit that finished only above Orlando City B in goals (19 total, compared to Orlando’s 10).
Mendonca is another notable name who will return next season. The Providence College alum started last season relatively slow—often starting on the bench—but really developed throughout the campaign. He’s a physical player who is good with the ball at his feet, and he showed glimpses of attacking proficiency, particularly towards the tail end of the season. With momentum behind him, Revs II fans should be excited to watch his growth in 2021.
Rice, Bell, Maciel, and Spaulding were all no-brainer extensions, in my opinion. Rice—who is currently in the finals for the USL League One Save of the Year (go vote!)—was a top-tier goalkeeper in USL League One last season, ranking fourth in saves despite finishing the season early due to an injury. Bell, originally a wing-back, spent his first time at center back last season and excelled—he’s quick, strong, and fluid in possession, even finishing fourth in USL League One in passes (820). Maciel is an intelligent and calm figure in the midfield, and Spaulding is an incredibly versatile player on the left channel, who reminds me of first-team player Tajon Buchanan (especially now that the Canadian winger is excelling as a wing-back for the Revolution).
Now for the fun news. Revs II signed four players this offseason, including Colby Quinones, who was ushered into the starting lineup after Ryo Shimazaki received a red card in the second game of the season. Once the Bedford, N.H. native earned his chance, he never looked back, playing the final 14 games of the season. Revs II also signed Marzuq Puckerin, a local goalie from Cambridge, Mass., who recently spent time with Atlanta United’s prestigious academy team. Puckerin also holds experience abroad, having trained with the academy teams at both West Ham United academy (England) and Aberdeen Football Club (Scotland). As of now, he should be the back-up for Joe Rice, but don’t count anything out from the U.S. Youth National team player.
Revs II also signed two collegiate defenders in Michael DeShields and Sean O’Hearn. Both played at prominent Division I teams—DeShields at Wake Forest and O’Hearn at Georgetown—and should add depth to the backline.
Finally, Meny Silva and Dennis Ramirez—two Revolution Academy products—also earned contracts with Revs II for the 2021 season.
The Revolution II roster currently sits at 12 players. More offseason moves are inevitable, and I’ll be reporting on those as they come.
As things stand, Revs II will open their preseason against Hartford Athletic, a USL Championship side, on February 19th. After finishing their inaugural season on a hot streak, the team will look to carry this momentum into their sophomore season.