December is annually the month of personnel decisions for all Major League Soccer clubs because it is during December that MLS holds a plethora of different “drafts,” opens free agency, sees contracts expire, etc. Have a look:
There are actually additional “wrinkles” to most of the events on this list, but I only want to talk about one in the context of the Revolution, and that is this: Per MLS rules, the Revolution have until Thursday, Dec. 14 to make offers to any re-entry draft eligible players, including players whose options were not exercised or out of contract players. In short, this is a way for clubs to say to players in either of those categories (option not picked up/out of contract), “We’d be interested in having you back…but at a lower price.”
With that out of the way, the real importance of the lists (below) released by the club yesterday are that they reflect new manager Brad Friedel’s first chance to begin to reshape the club into one that he will lead forward, one hopes, to greater success than any of his predecessors in the position. Let’s start with those over which Friedel had little to no say.
Players Under Contract for 2018
While any of these players could potentially be traded, I think Friedel will be happy to be “forced” to keep this core group. Delamea is one of the club’s best signings in recent memory and based on his first half season, Dielna seems to have been a good addition as well. Fagundez and Nguyen are “no-brainers,” especially if Friedel can allow them to play in their natural positions. Németh would be the only question mark for me. He was brought into a club full of forwards and there didn’t seem to be a natural place for him other than to provide depth on the forward line.
The only other player Friedel had no control over was midfielder Gershon Koffie who has returned to Hammarby IF after the expiration of his loan.
This then brings us to the players that Friedel chose to keep. This could be because he sees them as valuable parts to his plans or because he sees them as tradeable players who could bring him new players who would better fit into his system.
2018 Player Options Exercised
I could nitpick a bunch of these (i.e., don’t Agudelo and Kamara fill the same roll, and do you therefore need both of them?), but there are really only two players I want to comment on. The first is Femi Hollinger-Janzen. He’s young, he’s an energetic substitute off the bench, but I think the reason his option was exercised was probably because it was cheap. The other is goalkeeper Matt Turner, who has spent his first two years with the club on loan with the Richmond Kickers. My guess here is that Friedel, who would know better than just about anyone, sees something in him and his probably going to keep him with the senior club as a back-up to Cody Cropper (more on this below).
Player Options Not Exercised
Let’s deal with the easy stuff first and then we’ll deal with that GIANT elephant in the room. Donnie Smith will be 27 in two weeks and since joining the Revolution in 2013 he has, whether through injury or loan spells in lower leagues, has made a total of six MLS appearances (three in one season) and played in nine US Open Cup matches. Not the kind of player you bring back. Josh Smith made a few good appearances for the Revs last season before injury and new signings on the back line consigned him to oblivion. Brian Wright was a local (ish) guy who was a standout at the University of Vermont, but could not force his way into the starting eleven, or even onto the bench for most matches.
Of the group including Je-Vaughn Watson, London Woodberry, and Benjamin Angoua, I would guess that the club will try to renegotiate with Watson and Angoua, though I’d be fine if they let them all walk. All, even Woodberry, had good spells, but Angoua (31) and Watson (34) are getting on in years and Watson, particularly, always seems like a red card just waiting to happen. Maybe that would improve under Friedel, but all things being equal I’d rather not take the chance. Now, about that elephant…
The Revolution front office (Heaps, Burns, and Bilello) positively crowed about the signing of Xavier Kouassi as a “Designated Player,” and about how they had searched the soccer world not for “any” player, but for the “right” player. Kouassi was a leader, a winner, an international player etc.. As I have pointed out since day one (search the site, I beg you), this was all a
sham exaggeration: Kouassi captained a average club (FC Sion) in a mediocre league (Switzerland), won one piece of silverware while there, and played one minute as a substitute in a friendly match for the Ivory Coast in 2011. And then he promptly blew out his knee towards the end of his last Swiss season an missed all of what would have been his first season with the Revolution.
Now, having said all of that, Kouassi has done everything right since joining the club- EVERYTHING. He worked on his English. He moved to the U.S. to do his rehabilitation with the club so he could get to know his teammates. He was aggressive about said rehabilitation, returning to action much earlier than many expected. Once he was fully healthy he was a good player and he might even be a “very good” player next season, but even if he is, he will be worth DP money- he was never going to be. He is a player I’d be happy to see back, but at a very reduced pay rate.
Players Out of Contract on Dec. 31, 2017
Bunbury had his best season as a Revs player (seven goals) last year and yet, with the addition of Nemeth, I could see it being his last, especially if Friedel thinks he can get more goals out of Nguyen and Fagundez by tinkering with the line-up and formation. Farrell is still a bit of a mystery almost 200 matches into his Revs career. He’s still young (25), he’s got good technical ability, he’s very athletic, and he might have the best “recovery speed” of any defender in the league. But, because of his sometimes questionable decision making he needs that speed too often. He loves to get forward, and his skill on the ball makes that easy for him, but when it comes to putting crosses into the box…yeesh…the “touch of a blacksmith” is the phrase that comes to mind. Brad Knighton has done just fine in his second stint with the Revs, but it’s also become clear that Cody Cropper is the future. I don’t think Knighton will be back. Daigo Kobayashi is probably gone too, but I’d be okay if he came back as a bench player. He’ll be 35 before next season starts, but he does have a green card to so he’s a domestic player for MLS purposes and that helps.
Well, there it is. Time for the gaffer to go sign us two top-drawer central defenders so that we can get on with this!