When the New England Revolution announced their affiliation with the Rochester Rhinos (USL) in 2013, there were high expectations. The partnership was intended to get young players consistent and meaningful playing time, which would hopefully lead to them making an impact with the first team. However, that hasn’t happened. In fact, Donnie Smith is the only player to retain his spot on the Revs’ roster in the year following a loan stint.
Now in its fourth year of existence (the partnership has not been officially renewed yet, but club president Brian Bilello said it’s likely to continue on a recent episode of The Midnight Ride Podcast), the program is at a crossroads; a crossroads that involves Michael Gamble.
Gamble is a talented attacker who produced 24 goals and 20 assists in 60 appearances while at Wake Forest University. During preseason, the 22-year-old showed that he’s capable of growing into an MLS contributor. If you don’t believe me then re-watch his sublime pass to Teal Bunbury that led to Steve Neumann’s goal against the Houston Dynamo.
The talent is there, but the playing time probably won’t be. The Revs have a wealth of midfield talent that includes Diego Fagundez, Kelyn Rowe, Juan Agudelo, and Bunbury. As a first-year player, it’s difficult to see Gamble getting into the game-day 18, let alone a match.
With this in mind, it makes sense to send Gamble to Rochester. A player of his caliber should have no problem getting playing time. Although we haven’t seen a lot of him, first impressions make it seem that Gamble is a higher quality player than past loanees like Timi Mulgrew and Jossimar Sanchez (no offense).
If he did go to Rochester, Gamble would be allowed to ease into life as a professional. This includes learning stuff on the field, such as adjusting to the pace and physicality, and away from the field, which includes the travel and diet. Gamble would do this under the watchful eye of coach Bob Lilley, who is coming off a winning a championship.
That said, there’s value in keeping Gamble in Foxboro, especially since the Rhinos are in a state of transition. In Foxboro, Gamble would get to work closely with head coach Jay Heaps and play alongside experienced veterans like Lee Nguyen and Charlie Davies. Revolution practices aren’t easy and there’s plenty that Gamble would learn.
So, will Gamble head to Rochester or remain in Foxboro? That's currently unknown, but when we do find out it might say a lot about the state of the Revs-Rhinos partnership.