As the offseason rolls on in Foxboro, a goalkeeper controversy seems imminent.
Jay Heaps currently has four netminders on his roster, three of whom figure to battle for a starting spot in 2017. This depth opens the door for Heaps to make a move by trading one of the three, assuming neither Minnesota United or Atlanta United selects a Revolution keeper in the upcoming MLS Expansion Draft.
Who will survive the offseason? And who will start between the pipes come week one? Our staff weighs in.
Week 1 Starter: Cody Cropper
Depth Chart: Cropper, Brad Knighton, Matt Turner
With four goalkeepers on his current roster, Jay Heaps has some selling to do this offseason. Cropper, a 23-year-old who has experience with U.S. Soccer at the youth and senior level, appears next in line to earn the number one shirt.
This leaves Heaps with a pair of veteran backups in Knighton and Bobby Shuttleworth. Neither player figures to command overwhelming interest outside of Foxboro, though Shuttleworth represents the likelier candidate to feature in a trade. He’s younger (29 vs. 31), has two-and-half times as many starts under his belt (124 vs. 51) and is only two seasons removed from a start in the MLS Cup final. Expect Heaps to keep Knighton, deal Shuttleworth and give Cropper a chance to develop into his goalkeeper of the future.
Week 1 Starter: Knighton
Depth Chart: Knighton, Cropper, Turner
Don't get me wrong, Cropper is an enticing prospect with enough potential to find himself on a World Cup roster one day. But let's hold our horses with anointing him as the Revs' next No. 1 for the time being. After all, the 6-foot-4 netminder has only played 90 minutes for New England and has yet to firmly entrench himself domestically or abroad.
Mindful of that, the Revs would be wise to turn to the next surest thing: Knighton. Backstopping a porous-as-can-be defense in 2016, the MLS veteran posted a 6-5-1 record and two shutouts. Those are hardly world-class statistics, but Knighton's assured presence between the posts extends beyond metrics. He's smooth with his feet, always looks to distribute the ball quickly from the back, is good for an awe-inducing save or two per game and controls his 18. Those intangibles are nothing to scoff at, and give him the slight edge over Cropper. Plus, who doesn't remember Knighton's Open Cup heroics against the Philadelphia Union at Harvard?
As for Turner, I'd keep him around as the third-string guy. He showed glimpses during loan spells to the Richmond Kickers of the USL. The 22-year-old also made $51,500.04 last year, according to the MLS Players Union, so he's definitely a bargain. In the complicated scheme of MLS roster constructions, you need low-budget guys. Meanwhile, Shuttleworth has been a loyal servant to the Revs and a leader in the locker room. Don't be surprised to see him traded or taken in the expansion draft, though.
Week 1 Starter: Cropper
Depth Chart: Cropper, Knighton, Shuttleworth, Turner
I'm going to leave open two possibilities that could change my depth chart above. First, the Revs could lose a keeper in the upcoming Expansion Draft to either Atlanta or Minnesota. Shuttleworth has started an MLS Cup fairly recently and, while he did have a bad 2016 campaign, he's probably still a solid MLS starter. Even a veteran backup like Knighton has a lot of value in this league and would be worth a selection in an expansion draft. Second, assuming the Revs still have four keepers after the Expansion Draft, there should be a trade in the works that would likely involve any of the keepers except Turner.
Cropper is a USYNT standout and has a lot of potential but hasn't seen a lot of minutes at club level which is why he returned to the US after so many years in England. He would likely have the most trade value for the Revs but I'm not sure I'd want to part with Cropper unless New England is getting a substantial package in return. One of the first two overall picks from Atlanta or Minnesota in the SuperDraft would certainly be a nice asset to have with the Revs looking to bolster their backline.
That being said, Cropper could be a future breakout star that could command a transfer fee from Europe in the next few years or even a keeper who could break every record Matt Reis has in New England if he stays long enough and capitalizes on his potential. Cropper ended the Revs 2016 season with a shutout and I'd really like to see him wear the number one shirt next season and beyond.