New England Soccer Today

Cisse Ready to Lead

Revolution midfielder Kalifa Cisse was brought in during the offseason to lend his experience to the club - both on and off the field. (Photo: Chris Aduama/aduama.com)

Revolution midfielder Kalifa Cisse was brought in during the offseason to lend his experience to the club – both on and off the field. (Photo: Chris Aduama/aduama.com)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution midfielder Kalifa Cisse wasn’t just looking for another club when he found himself out of contract last year.

At 29, the Malian International had already established himself in the English Premier League and the Portuguese Liga. It stood to reason that he could’ve continued his career in Europe.

But Cisse didn’t wasn’t in search of just another opportunity. No, it ran deeper than that.

“It was time for a new challenge,” Cisse said after the Revolution’s first preseason training . “That’s why I didn’t think twice when I signed with the Revolution.”

The genesis of Cisse’s arrival in Foxboro can be traced back last fall. The veteran midfielder joined the club for a trial, hoping to seize the chance to play in the United States.

Of course, what he showed on the training pitch was important. But Heaps and Burns were also looking at the person just as much as the player.

“During that process, we really saw someone who wanted to help lead this team,” Heaps said. “We want to have him (exert) his influence and let the locker room develop a (positive) mentality.”

In speaking with Cisse, Heaps and Burns both believed that the former Bristol City midfielder was just the man for the job. Now, it was just a matter of convincing him to buy into what the Revolution were doing.

Burns worked with Cisse and his agent to hammer out a deal. In addition to Burns, goalkeeper coach Remi Roy, who spoke Cisse’s native French, kept in touch with the defensive midfielder, all in the hopes of getting him on board.

“It wasn’t an overnight process,” head coach Jay Heaps said. “It took a few weeks. Credit Michael Burns and Remi Roy for really closing the gap on (the negotiations). And credit (Cisse) and his desire to be here. I think that’s something that was shown during the negotiations.”

Granted, he probably could have found the challenge he sought just about anywhere in MLS. But the way the defensive midfielder tells it, there was something about New England that piqued his interest.

“This is a solid club with a winning mentality and they really want to improve,” Cisse said. “They have a lot of ambition and that’s exciting for me.”

Another thing that the Revolution have of a lot of: youth. With a strong mix of young players on the roster, the seasoned veteran has already had a number of them approach him for advice and insight.

“The young lads have a lot of potential, but they need some help,” Cisse said. “That’s why I’m excited about this challenge. It gives me (even) more motivation to try to help them.”

Just as important as guiding the youngsters, Cisse will also be counted upon to stabilize the defense and midfield. The mid-season trade of Shalrie Joseph left a gaping hole in the middle of the park. While Clyde Simms performed admirably in Joseph’s absence, it’s clear that the team needed to find someone with traits similar to Joseph.

Enter Cisse, who regularly featured as defensive midfielder for Reading and Bristol City. Moreso, at 6-2, 180lbs, Cisse has the frame to withstand – and perhaps more improtantly, dole out – the punishment a defensive midfielder typically experiences in an increasingly physical league like MLS.

Pressure? You could say that. However, it appears Cisse is simply taking it all in stride.

So far, Cisse has been all smiles in camp, which opened on Saturday. Chatting with fellow French-speaking teammates Dimitry Imbongo and Saer Sene, Cisse is clearly at ease with the decision to come to New England.

He does, however, have one piece of advice for the rest of his teammates.

“Just work hard,” Cisse said.

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6 Comments

  1. Robert

    January 21, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    From everything that’s been written about Cisse, it’s hard not to like the signing. His pedigree is exactly what the Revs need. He appears to be even-keeled and hopefully his leadership and influence will further enhance a positive locker room. Personally, I’m excited about this season because of all the new players signed this off-season ; the team will take a giant step forward in Jay’s second year. I strongly believe Heaps is molding the team back to prominence. Of course, the proof will have to come on the field. Let’s get rolling – only six weeks to First Kick.

  2. Jesse K

    January 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Hearing him talk about wanting to make young guys better is awesome, seems like a guy who actually wants to make the team better.

  3. Chris B

    January 22, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    He may turn out to be a fantastic signing for Heaps! I like him already!

  4. rick sewall

    January 24, 2013 at 7:25 am

    There are at least 4 Cisses playing professional soccer in Europe. Let’s hope we get a good one.

  5. Jim

    January 24, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    I’m very excited that the Revs were able to identify the fact that they needed a new Joseph, and that they went out and signed a new Joseph. That’s a very promising, hope-inspiring pair of moves by them. Bravo. A very competent FO type move.

    I think Cisse’s comments are interesting. He seems to have a very Euro-centric train of thought, talking about how “ambitious” the club is. If the Revs were a European club, they’d be in full fledged sell-and survive mode. Lucky for us we have this salary cap and no relegation / promotion.

    I also like the fact that at least, on the surface, this guy has a very positive mentality. It sounds like he wants to be here. He isn’t just collecting his last checks like Dabo and Domi. He already has a voice. He is making an effort to sound like he is here to stay and contribute. Really become a team player. He is taking a leadership role already. Good stuff. I’m proud of you, Heaps.

    • Chris B

      January 24, 2013 at 9:37 pm

      I agree but I just have to say that Dabo was very classy and respectful and retired early so he wouldn’t feel like he was being paid to just sit around injured.

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