With the new CBA having been certified as official only a week ago, preparations for the start of the 2021 MLS regular season are already underway. Clubs report for the first practices of the preseason on the 22nd and will have 6 weeks of training before the season officially begins on April 3rd. While no official schedules for individual teams have been released yet, the announcement is expected to arrive in the coming weeks. With a fairly decent chunk of time off, Bruce Arena wasted no time shaping his roster for this season.
First off, let’s take a moment to go over each player that will NOT be returning to the Revolution for the 2021 season:
Diego Fagundez, the homegrown product from Leominster, MA will finally be departing the team after playing with the club from the age of 14 until now. The Uruguayan midfielder opted to join expansion side Austin FC along with fellow ex-Revs teammate, Kekuta Manneh. In addition, midfielders Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen, defenders Alex Buttner, Antonia Mlinar Delamea and Michael Mancienne, and forward Cristian Penilla are all slated to be searching for new homes this offseason. Rowe has already signed with the Seattle Sounders, Nguyen with Vietnamese side Ho Chi Minh City, Buttner with APOEL, Delamea with Olimpija Ljubljana, and Mancienne with Burton Albion.
A few of the acquisitions from the previous season will also be returning, such as midfielders Tommy McNamara and Emmanuel Boateng. The Revolution also promoted Academy defender Colin Verfurth to the first team, to shore up the defensive line with Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler taking on an even larger workload than they had in the 2020 season.
The MLS Draft saw the team reinforce its depth with the choices of forward Edward Kizza from Pitt, and defender Francois Dulysse from UCF and Manhattan. While it’s not expected the two rookies make an instant impact, Nick Woodruff, recently promoted from Revolution II will look to leave his mark along the backline, and hopefully prove to be Andrew Farrell’s eventual replacement, years from now.
Before even getting into the mass of acquisitions the team made, arguably their most intelligent move this offseason was to re-sign goalkeeper Matt Turner to a long-term contract. Turner, who joined the team in 2016, didn’t see his first in-game action until 2018 when Brad Friedel let the American start the season opener against Philadelphia. Already Turner has impressed without playing a game for his club under his new deal, earning his first cap and victory for the US Men’s National Team against Trinidad and Tobago earlier this year. In the match, Turner stonewalled Alvin Jones from the penalty spot en route to a 7-0 victory for the red, white, and blue. Thanks in part to his phenomenal play this past season, Turner was voted Revolution MVP, Revolution Player’s Choice MVP, and the Midnight Riders Man of the Year award, as well as being a finalist for MLS goalkeeper of the year, placing 3rd in the voting.
With Bruce Arena at the helm, international talent is always in high demand wherever he chooses to lead the way. That sentiment rang true with the multitude of signings that will be arriving in Foxboro in the coming months, so let’s get to know some new faces!
Kaptoum is a Cameroonian-born central defensive midfielder, with roots stemming from FC Barcelona’s youth system before finding his home at Real Betis. While he only found the back of the net 6 times in his career, all coming while he played for Barcelona’s B team, Kaptoum’s hustle and poise on the ball in the middle of the park make him a perfect fit for a team that loves to control the middle of the field. Kaptoum’s playstyle exudes a mix of Xavier Kouassi and Luis Caicedo, with a much more illustrious background than either of the two. While he’ll most likely compete with Tommy McNamara and Luis Caicedo for a midfield position, I imagine that Bruce Arena has the perfect plan to incorporate him into the team.
A Colombian defender who has played in South America for his entire career until this point, Mafla’s experience playing in one of the most exciting and competitive environments in world football will provide ample help with his transition to MLS. Most recently taking the pitch with Colombia’s Atletico Nacional, the 28-year-old brings a skillset that the Revs were in dire need of, a mature, consistent left-back. While Alexander Buttner was great last season, his injuries, paired with a positive COVID test come playoff time really diminished the impact the former Manchester United defender could bring to the table. With Seth Sinovic leaving as well, and DeJuan Jones listed as the only LB still on the roster, signing another left-back was a no-brainer.
AJ De La Garza
A thorn in the side of Revs fans throughout the LA Galaxy’s run of success in the early 2010s, De La Garza rejoins his former head coach in Bruce Arena following a short run at Nashville SC, and again, fills a definite need on the Revolution roster. A three-time MLS Cup champion and two-time Supporter’s Shield recipient with the Galaxy, AJ’s experience and championship pedigree is a welcome sight on a club that’s been 0-5 after every chance to change the rhetoric. While De La Garza began his career as an outside back, I imagine his role will be that of a swiss army knife across the backline, filling in whenever need be, just as Delamea and Mancienne had over the previous seasons.
Considering the Revolution managed to make it all the way to the Conference finals despite not having a fully healthy roster until the very final week of the season, hopes are relatively high in New England for 2021, as they certainly should be. With the big 3 of Bou, Buksa, and Gil primed and ready for their first full season together, (hopefully with some fans in the stands!) and some proper preparation from the front office, the Revolution earn an A- on their report card this time around.
(Photos: AP Photo/Stew Milne, New England Revolution)