There's a real sense of excitement coming from the New England Revolution about their new Designated Player Xavier Kouassi. The 26-year-old defensive midfielder, who isn't expected to arrive until July, has an impressive resume, which includes captaining 2015 Swiss Cup champions FC Sion.
While the Revs front office is gleeful about the acquisition, it's okay to admit that you're a bit unsure. After all, you probably don't watch a lot of Swiss Super League.
To help us get a better understanding of what to expect from Kouassi, The Bent Musket spoke to journalist Oliver Dufour of 20minutes.
The Bent Musket (TBM): What are Kouassi's strengths?
Oliver Dufour (OD): Xavier's main strength is that he is a very powerful, physical player. When he is in top condition, it's very hard to get past him or to strip him of the ball.
Also, he is a good all-rounder, so he can quite easily switch form defence to attack. He's good in transition. The fact that he's a natural leader and knows how to set up his teammates makes him an important piece of any team's spine.
TBM: What are Kouassi's weaknesses?
OD: His main weakness is in the attacking zone. He's quite capable of bringing the ball into his opponent's half, but as soon as he gets closer to their goal he doesn't really know what to do with it. If you check his stats, you'll see that he very rarely scores. He really needs to improve his game there. If he does, he'll become a really big headache for any opponent. But hey, he's 26 and there's room for progress.
TBM: It seems that Kouassi frequently gets cards. Should this be a concern for the Revs?
OD: This will depend on the way the game is played in MLS. I'm not very familiar with your style pf play, but I would say a lot of his bookings are probably down to the fact that he is very determined and powerful. In my eyes, his aggressive style is a good thing, but it could get him into trouble with very strict refereeing. In the English Premier League, for instance, where there is more leniency with tough players, Xavier would probably not be booked so often.
TBM: How would you describe his presence in the locker room?
OD: Based on what teammates and staff have said, he's the guy people like being around. The guy who makes good-natured jokes and will organize fun and games for his mates. He's also good at welcoming new players to his team. His leadership is very gentle. He's not the type of guy who'll yell orders at teammates, but he naturally commands respect. He wasn't named captain for no reason. Especially in Sion, where he was the first African player to hoist the Swiss Cup for the club. He has requested to remain captain until he leaves, because he really wants to carry out that role to the end. Whether they let him is another question.
TBM: How high should expectations be for Kouassi?
OD: It all depends on how he will deal with the change. If he's really motivated to accept a new challenge, if he wants to discover new horizons and is keen on learning English, maybe, I'm pretty sure he'll be very valuable to the Revs. He'll also have to get used to the way the game is played in MLS. If the adjustment is quick and smooth, then I'll say New England have made a great bargain. If it takes longer, do both club and player have the necessary patience? But when he arrived at Servette straight from Africa, he was immediately good and reliable. It didn't take much time for him to adjust to Sion, either.
The other big question mark is his fitness. He was injured at the end of last year - some kind of back problems. Since then, he seems to have lost a bit of his "untouchable" status. Does this mean he is no longer the player Sion were relying on so much? Is it because they will probably be getting Serey Die back and don't really need him anymore? Or is it just that he is wanting to get away? Hopefully you'll find out for us if you get a chance to talk to him! (Editor's note: Will do!)
We want to thank Oliver Dufour for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to follow Oliver on Twitter (@Oliver_Dufour) for more insight about Kouassi.