Between the SuperDraft, player allocations, the Re-Entry Draft (Parts One and Two!), etc. I sometimes wonder if Major League Soccer hasn’t just created a lot of these things in order to make people think there is more going on than there actually is? It’s like an elaborate shell game designed just to get fans of the league and its teams (and maybe the press as well) to say, “Ohhh…can you believe they released/decline the option on so-and-so?!” For example, yesterday the New England Revolution re-signed three players who were either out of contract at the end of the 2013, had their options declined, or…whatever. One of those players was Kevin Alston.
Did anyone in their right mind think that they weren’t going to bring Alston back?! First of all, he earned the right to come back through his play (more on that in a moment), second, and more importantly, even the New England Revolution aren’t tone deaf enough to jettison a guy who just won the 2013 MLS Comeback Player of the Year Award for returning to action after being diagnosed with leukemia!
And what did I mean about “earned the right to come back?” Alston, despite being only 25, is already in the top ten in club history for appearances and minutes played. More important than that, until his diagnosis in March of this year he had started every game he had been available for in his career. Think about that: if he wasn’t hurt or suspended there has never been a time in the first five years in his career that Steve Nicol or Jay Heaps didn’t put his name in the starting line-up. I suspect that if you looked for similar players around MLS you’d find very few.
The point of all of this being, he was never going anywhere, so why make it seem like he was? Yes, he was out of contract. Yes, he could have signed with another club. The truth is, however, that both the player and the club knew that wasn’t going to happen (with MLS controlling contracts it was unlikely he’d get more money from another club in the league), so all that was really happening was that they were renegotiating his contract. Though I guess that doesn’t sound quite as sexy.
Also re-signed yesterday was Alston’s defensive partner in crime for the last five seasons, Darius Barnes. Barnes, 27, had fallen out of favor a bit at then end of Steve Nicol’s tenure and the beginning of Heaps’, but his ability to play every position across the back line and a number of injuries to New England defenders in 2013 gave him a chance to show his worth again and he did. He’s still probably going to fill the “handyman” role- spot starts and regular appearances off the bench- but whatever the case, the club clearly wanted him back in Foxboro in 2014.
The third player returning to the club is 23 year old goalkeeper Luis Soffner. Perhaps the best collegiate goalkeeper available in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, Soffner spent his rookie year in the limbo that is the fate of third string goalkeepers in MLS- he trained with the club and also worked with nearby Brandeis University as an assistant coach. His only competitive appearances came in the pre-season.
More roster updates as they happen…