The players are back in Foxborough, which means that the 2016 MLS season is in sight. The New England Revolution’s young core remains intact as the team returns 19 players, including defensive stalwart Jose Goncalves, team MVP Scott Caldwell, and leading scorer Charlie Davies. This stability doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of talking points heading into preseason. Here are the top stories of the new year:
1. The Jermaine Jones Saga
Ever since the Revs were knocked out of the playoffs by D.C. United in late October, there has been one question on the minds of Revolution fans: Will he stay or will he go? It’s a drama with plenty of twists as one moment makes it seem as though Jones is as good as gone while the next is a bit more optimistic. Although Jones doesn’t seem to be in a rush to identify his next club, the Revs need to act with urgency. Scott Caldwell is a pitbull in the midfield but he needs a partner. The sooner that player is found, the better.
2. Who's the Revolution’s mystery DP?
Club president Brian Bilello raised eyebrows when he announced that the Revs had completed a DP signing. It was a jaw-dropping moment for fans, who had grown frustrated during a quiet off-season that saw no new additions. Bilello doubled down a day later by announcing that an international was on the way. That player turned out to be Sporting CP defender Sambinha. While Sambinha most recently played with Sporting’s B-team, the news caused plenty of excitement. Will the DP signing bring a similar feeling?
3. What will the defense look like?
With Goncalves, Andrew Farrell, and Chris Tierney returning, it seemed as though the only question along the backline would be at right back. This spot was viewed as an open competition between veteran Darrius Barnes, upstart London Woodberry, and draftee Jordan McCrary. The arrival of Sambinha distorted perspectives, however, as some project the 23-year-old as a starter. If that happens, Farrell might return to right back. A defense that once seemed settled, is now shrouded in uncertainty.
4. Juan Agudelo vs. Charlie Davies
Last year’s major off-season acquisition was Agudelo. Expectations were high for the US national team prospect, but he soon lost the starting striker spot to Davies. The new season will renew the rivalry as both players are hungry for minutes. After finishing 2015 with ten goals and four assists (both more than Agudelo), you have to imagine that Davies has a leg up. That said, Agudelo has a higher upside. So, who will Jay Heaps look to when it comes to scoring goals?
5. Who will be this season’s breakout star?
2015 will be known as the year of Caldwell. 2014 belongs to Lee Nguyen. And 2013? That’s all Diego Fagundez. Who will step up this year? Early favorites include Sambinha, McCrary, or Woodberry. 24-year-old Kelyn Rowe, now in his fourth year with the Revolution, is also primed for big things. One outside pick is Homegrown product Zachary Herivaux, who spent time training with Sporting CP in Portugal. The Revs have gained a reputation as the team that let's the youth play. Will someone take advantage of the opportunity?