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The Revs Need a Box-to-Box Midfielder

The Revs need to do some off-season shopping and top of their list should be a steady presence in the midfield.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Revolution have a good squad. In fact, they have a squad that shouldn’t be missing the playoffs two years in a row. Adding three new central defenders in Claude Dielna, Benjamin Angoua, and Antonio Delamea, along with striker Krisztian Nemeth were good pieces, but the Revolution still have one major void left to be filled. A number “8” — a box-to-box midfielder — is exactly what the Revolution need to take the next step.

In the squad, the Revolution have some talented midfielders but there’s a gap between the holding (defensive) midfielder and the attacking midfielder. Lee Nguyen is the right player for the attacking midfield role as made evident by the 11 goals and 15 assists he’s collected this season. Whereas Xavier Kouassi or Gershon Koffie have proved they can put solid shifts in as the holding midfielder. The problem is, there’s no link between the two. Often, the Revolution are forced to play out wide rather than through the middle.

Adding a quality, proven box-to-box midfielder would fix this problem for the Revolution. A noticeable trend is Kei Kamara receives the ball in positions that a winger should be. Kamara should not be dragged out so wide, but it has to happen since nothing dangerous comes from the middle. This box-to-box midfielder would offer support to not only Kamara — or whoever’s playing striker — but also Nguyen, who needs help in middle.

The Revs are deadly on the counter but they generally have to go out wide. When the transition is mainly through wide positions, the team is limiting its options and often becoming too predictable. The addition of a box-to-box midfielder would put more bodies in the middle, which would prevent opponents from sitting back and happily defending around the 18-yard box.

Adding a number 8 would also give the Revs some flexibility in terms of their formation. Personally, I’d like to see a 4-3-3 formation. The three players in the midfield will all have their own role; one as the holding midfielder, one as the box-to-box, and one as the attacking midfielder. This will give the Revolution more numbers in the midfield and give the fullbacks the license to push forward. This formation would also allow the two wingers to tuck in centrally to find pockets of space or hug the touchline to spread out the opposition.

An alternative formation that could be used if the Revolution would like to opt for two strikers would be a 4-4-2 diamond, with the four midfielders staying centrally rather than playing with the outside midfielders. We could also see a 3-4-2-1. As you can see, the addition of a box-to-box midfielder brings with it a lot of options.

Likely, the Revolution will have to go to the transfer market for such a player. But, that may not be the case as Kelyn Rowe has put in great shifts in the midfield this season. The only question surrounding Rowe is consistency. Rowe’s a valuable player to the squad, playing in various different positions; featuring as everything from attacking midfielder to left back. There’s no way to tell if Rowe’s ready to play a full season as a box-to-box midfield role, but adding through the transfer market would only bring healthy competition that Revolution squad could definitely benefit from.