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Revolution’s 2017 will depend on international signings

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We don’t know who the international signings are, but I can tell you that they will be important.

New England Revolution v Seattle Sounders Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

In 2012, the New England Revolution looked to the international market to fill important holes. Five years later, the team is revisiting the game plan, hopeful that it produces different results.

On Jan. 4, 2012, newly-hired head coach Jay Heaps told RevolutionSoccer.net, “There’s no question in my mind that we feel a sense of urgency to make some signings … It’s not an overnight process. It takes a little while. But in that same breath, we’ve pushed the needle a little bit.”

In the same article, General Manager Michael Burns said, “Our goal is to have a couple players signed by preseason.”

If you think these phrases sound familiar, you’re not alone.

After Friday’s MLS SuperDraft, Burns spoke to RevolutionSoccer.net, saying, “There’s still a significant amount of work to do. There are still hopefully multiple signings to come, in the near future – ideally before the season starts.”

The 2017 comments mirror what was said in 2012 and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the Revolution delivered what they promised in that first year.

On Jan. 9, 2012, the Revs announced the signings of defender John Lozano and midfielder Fernando Cardenas. Feb. 2 brought the announcement of forward Jose Moreno. Jerry Bengtson, another striker, joined the team on Jul. 5.

The team promised international signings in 2012 and came through by adding these four, as well as others. With this in mind, fans shouldn’t be questioning if additions are coming in 2017. Instead, they should be pondering if the new newcomers will be good enough.

As an advisory, the four marquee internationals that arrived in 2012 didn’t make much of an impact.

The four players were expected to be big-time contributors, but fell short of expectations. Lozano struggled with injuries and looked slow even when healthy. All you need to know about him can be seen in the 15th minute of the Revolution’s season opener against the San Jose Earthquakes. To summarize, the centerback stands awkwardly in no man’s land as Shea Salinas combines with Chris Wondolowski to go in on goal.

Cardenas fared better, making 27 appearances and collecting two goals and two assists. The Colombian wasn’t a world-beater but probably wasn’t supposed to be. He was likely signed to be a bit player and filled that role until he was released at the end of the season.

Moreno’s tenure in New England was brief and disastrous. Touted as a true number 9, Moreno was expected to the goal-scorer the team needed. Even before he took the field, however, there was trouble. Despite signing paperwork with the Revs, Moreno expressed a desire to stay with Once Caldas. It took longer than expected, but the striker eventually made the move to MLS. One goal and seven appearances later, Moreno was on his way out.

The Revs would once again return to the international scene in their search for a goal-scorer. This time the team found Bengtson. The Honduran checked a lot of boxes, as he was young and scored a lot in native Honduras. Unfortunately, his scoring rate didn’t come with him, as the lanky striker struck just four times in 36 appearances.

It’s worth noting that the Revs did make some good signings in 2012. Saer Sene did a lot with his left foot and Dimitry Imbongo played his part. Kelyn Rowe proved to be a solid draft pick and Clyde Simms was a nice addition. The big prize of the season was Lee Nguyen, who was and has been nothing short of excellent.

Overall, however, 2012 should be remembered as the year of poor international signings.

In the years to come, the Revs would look more domestic than international. In fact, the biggest foreign signings that were made during the four years that followed were done before the 2013 season when the club added Kalifa Cisse, who lasted less than a year, and Jose Goncalves, who won MLS Defender of the Year in his first season.

The Revs are now hoping to find another Goncalves—or two—to sign before First Kick 2017. The pressure is on to get it right because their season likely depends on it.

With only four listed defenders on the current roster—two more if you include Donnie Smith and Zachary Herivaux—it’s safe to say that the Revs need help along the backline. After allowing 54 goals last year, the club is primed for an overhaul, especially since Darrius Barnes, Jordan McCrary, and Goncalves are currently unsigned. Moving on from these players is certainly acceptable, but help is needed and that help is apparently coming from abroad.

Information has been scarce, but we do know that the Revs’ coaching staff has been scouting in Europe, South America, and the Middle East. We also know that the club expects “to have multiple signings before the start of the season.”

The Revs haven’t specifically said what positions they’re targeting, but it’s safe to say they’re looking for defenders, a thought that has been confirmed by ESPN’s Taylor Twellman. Could the Revs look elsewhere for defensive help? Sure, but it certainly seems like they’re looking aboard, and if they are, they better get it right.

Currently, the team has plenty of attacking talent. With Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez, Scott Caldwell, and Teal Bunbury running the midfield and Kei Kamara and Juan Agudelo leading the front line, this team shouldn’t have a problem scoring. In order for the attackers to be confident enough to go forward, they need a reliable back four behind them.

Andrew Farrell and Chris Tierney are returning, which provides stability on the flanks. Now, the team needs centerbacks.

In 2012, the Revs scoured the globe for players to fill their needs and came up short. Now, five years later, success will likely depend on the team using the same strategy with better results. Will the team add players like Lozano or Goncalves? The answer couldn’t be more important.