A handful of weeks ago, right before or even during my last episode on Revolution Recap podcast (go to the 28:00 minute mark), my brain was stuck on a very interesting question.
You see, the 2019/2020 “winter transfer window” or offseason has been by far and away the best offseason by the New England Revolution ever. However, the Revs did some significant cheating during this time adding a brand new training center on the Gillette/Foxboro campus, starting a USL League One affiliate, and then of course actually signing players.
We’re going to focus on that last part for this post, the first team signings, but before we do that let us give credit where credit is due. We are here to talk about the past but we’re not here to talk about why that past is only getting addressed in year Twenty-Five of Revs history.
Now despite everything I’ve just mentioned, can the Revs crack Andrew Wiebe’s Top 5 MLS Offseasons so far post (from back in late January), no of course not. This doesn’t surprise me, the Revs can’t even get a national television game. But no longer will be forced to wallow in our own angst and misery all winter long because times are changing.
It's honorable mention worthy, but not cracking that top five. Just my opinion.— Andrew Wiebe (@andrew_wiebe) January 29, 2020
This is the Bruce Arena era, and for the first time in Revs history, well over a decade after the original designated player rule went into affect, New England has three players signed to DP contracts (and available to play, no Xavier Kouassi in 2016 doesn’t count). Beyond the star players in the Revs attack, a solid core that was built up and carried over from the Jay Heaps era is still largely intact and far as we can tell was never as bad as soccer as their form in May of 2019 indicated.
The Revs training center was already in the works before Arena came on as coach, and we might not know how much input he had in the USL team but I’m going to assume it was a decent amount. I don’t know if it was simply hiring or listening to their head coach that awakened or forced the Krafts out of their usual Patriots dominated winter, but however it happened the results are staggering in comparison to past offseasons.
Because let’s be very clear about this folks, it’s a damn short list of significant winter/offseasons for the Revs. Since I have been writing with TBM, New England once started a season with just 23 rostered players by seemingly adding no one during the winter and now might play nearly 30 games with three DP’s in the starting lineup.
Let’s start with the year that started it all...2002.
Oh yes, the year of a zillion different MLS Drafts – Super, Dispersal, Allocation – you name it, the Revs drafted it in and it is here the Revs dominance in all things MLS Draft related began.
The Revs selected Taylor Twellman and Shalrie Joseph in the 02 Superdraft, nabbed Carlos Llamosa, Steve Ralston Allocation Draft as well as Mamadou Diallo after the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion folded. Also in that stretch the Revs nabbed several players in the final dispersal draft including Jim Rooney, Alex Pineda Chacon, and reclaiming a Revs 2000 SuperDraft pick Shaker Asad.
While we know several of those names went on to star with the Revs for a decade, several of those players mentioned above made significant contributions to the Revs in that 2002 season though the numbers for Twellman (23 G/6 A) and Ralston (5 G/19 A) are just staggering.
Now we don’t have to go that far back for the next most impactful offseason because, like I said this is a fairly short list. If I give an honorable mention to the 2012 well it was just last year – 2019, otherwise known as the year the Revs started their heel turn...I mean Gil turn...no, wait, anyway.
I’m going to give an honorable mention to the 2012 offseason which featured drafting Kelyn Rowe and signing Lee Nguyen off the waiver wire but this gets docked points because Nguyen was more or less signed the first week of the regular season. The Revolution have only rarely gone into preseason with their core or starting lineup, which is why 2019 is significant because the Revs added their star player at the end of January.
Carles Gil is the sole reason the 2019 offseason is either second or third on this list, and that’s it, those are the only other years of note here besides 2020. I mean, yes, the Revs did put together another solid draft class last year in DeJuan Jones and Tajon Buchanan, signed two homegrowns in Justin Rennicks and Nicolas Firmino but it’s Gil that is the star because, as far as I could tell, Gil was the first Revs DP signed in the offseason window.
Milton Caraglio was midseason in 2011, Jerry Bengston the same a year later and, Shalrie Joseph was a DP in 2012 but had already been with the team for a decade. Jermaine Jones was by far the most successful midseason acquisition in the lead up to the Revs 2014 MLS Cup Final run and the blockbuster trade for Kei Kamara in 2016 was a solid trade. Jose Goncalves and Claudie Dielna both saw time as a DP though like Shalrie that seemed to be more related to roster shenanigans than anything else as their contact/roster status seemed to change every year. Then of course the pre-contract for Kouassi rounds out an overall lackluster historical list of Revolution DPs.
Gil was the first player in New England history to sign as a DP in the winter, some 12 years after the Beckham Rule became a thing. That is unfathomable in the MLS 3.0 era when seemingly every expansion team (NYCFC, Orlando, Atlanta) entered the league with three DP’s their first season. But...I said I wasn’t here to talk about the past. We’re here to talk about the positive things.
Because without a doubt this is the best offseason for the Revs in their twenty-five year history in Major League Soccer. Just based on first team acquisitions alone, getting Buska as a third DP and a major TAM signing in Buttner are simply things the Revolution do not do in the winter. Too often and for far too long the Revolution relied on mid or in-season signings to bolster their team and quite frankly, in the DP era that simply hasn’t been good enough except for that one magical time in 2014.
But this offseason in particular goes beyond Buksa and Buttner. The Revs finally seem to be getting back on track in the draft, getting UVA defender Henry Kessler after years of me asking to get a true centerback in the draft. DeJuan Jones looks like he’s in the mix to get more minutes at fullback, but if he doesn’t there’s going to a place for him and Rennicks and Buchanan and Firmino to get minutes this year in a Revs jersey that isn’t MLS or a token USOC appearance. Heck, the re-acquisition of free agents Kelyn Rowe and Seth Sinovic are noteworthy as well.
Once you factor in the off the field additions of Revs II and the new training grounds behind Gillette, there’s no question that this is by far the best winter in Revolution history.
Maybe not as good George Washington winning back to back weeks at Trenton and Princeton in 1776/1777, those were a big six points that season...but I think this winter is in the conversation.