While the biggest story of the New England Revolution off-season should have been the team being crowned the Mobile Mini Cup Champions, newly appointed head coach Brad Friedel’s refusal to hear offers for midfielder Lee Nguyen, who has voiced his desire to leave the club, has overshadowed this victory. Hopefully for New England, the few off-season pick ups will gel with previous players to help the team finish in playoff position this year.
Off-Season Grade: B-
After losing one of their leading goal scorers in Kei Kamara (and the other leading goal scorer, Nguyen, wants out), the Revolution had some work to do to ensure offensive prowess for the upcoming season. Luckily for the club, nine different players have scored goals out of the thirteen goals scored this off-season, including two from recent addition Cristian Penilla, who is on loan to the club from Pachuca.
Gabriel Somi and Wilfried Zahibo joined on free transfers. Somi will add depth to the midfield and backline while Zahibo will help to fill the void of Gershon Koffie’s departure back to Sweden. MLS veteran Jalil Anibaba was signed as also signed as a free agent and should be a nice piece off the bench or to spell defenders at times.
Additionally, head coach Friedel has made fitness an emphasis of the off-season, to the point where players comment on it in almost every interview. Friedel noticed some players’ tendency to quit early on plays, so his hope is that it was a fitness issue rather than a commitment issue. Let’s hope, for the players sake, that the increased fitness regimen this early in the preseason doesn’t lead to overuse injuries sometime during the rigorous MLS season.
Key Player: Lee Nguyen
The pick for key player for New England has very little to do with Nguyen’s play on the field. He was the team’s second leading goal scorer last season behind Kei Kamara. However, when a player is not released from a club they don’t want to play for, things can get a little difficult in the locker room. Friedel has specifically said the team is not listening to offers for the player, which is denying his club of a potential replacement for Nguyen, as well as preventing Nguyen from continuing his career with a team he wants to play for.
2018 Best Case Scenario: Making the playoffs
For a club that has made the playoffs in five of the last ten seasons, making the playoffs seems like a tough but achievable goal. If the club can overcome their rough road streak from last season, they have a shot at making the playoffs. New England has some talented attacking players in Kelyn Rowe, Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Krisztian Nemeth, and Diego Fagundez to lean on. There are still many variables that have to come together for this team to be successful this season.
Bold Prediction: Nguyen traded
At some point this season, Friedel will fold and Lee Nguyen will be traded for a situation that is mutually beneficial for both parties. I hear LAFC is looking to fill roster spots...