While the New England Revolution were in the midst of pre-game preparations at PPL Park last weekend, its USL-PRO affiliate was kicking off its preseason in earnest at Sahlen’s Stadium.
The Rochester Rhinos currently have 16 signed players on the roster, with seven trialists joining them this week. But it’s the four players the Revolution will send to the Empire State that hold the most intrigue.
On Tuesday, D.C. United, one of the four MLS clubs that established a formal affiliation with a USL-PRO club, announced that it had sent four players to Richmond. And with Rochester’s camp in full swing, the Revs will likely make a similar announcement before the end of the month.
So which players are projected to join ex-Rev/current Rhino Blake Brettschneider and his new teammates in Rochester? Let’s take a look at the candidates.
Bilal Duckett: After a lengthy trial, Duckett earned himself a contract last month, likely due to his ability to play anywhere in the back. He also has the speed to make some dangerous forward runs, and can make his presence felt on set pieces. Yet, he may be the victim of his own versatility: serviceable in a number of spots, but not particularly strong in any of them. That, and the fact that his preferred position is right back, where the Revs already have a pair of starting-quality players, seem to indicate that a trip to Rochester may be in his future.
Matt Horth: The former Atlanta Silverback was one of the first camp signings in January, and played in four preseason games before picking up a right ankle sprain. Although he does have a chance of making the gameday 18 with Jerry Bengtson unavailable for Saturday’s contest, the bigger picture shows that Horth probably won’t get many opportunities with the first team this year, especially if an international forward signing comes to pass.
Gabe Latigue: Although the Supplemental pick put together a solid preseason (four games, two starts, one assist), he hasn’t yet made the gameday 18 in the club’s first two games. This isn’t particularly surprising. With 11 midfielders on the roster, and nearly all of them healthy, there simply isn’t much room for Latigue to get minutes with the first team at the moment. Expect the versatile midfielder to get plenty of work in Rochester.
Sainey Nyassi: Sending the seventh-year veteran may seem like a headscratcher until you consider these facts: he’s only 24, he’s only started eight games in the last two seasons, and he’s still the fastest player on the squad. Put those together, and you get a player who’s desperate to get his career back on track. His best chance to do that lies in Rochester, rather than Foxboro, where he currently finds himself buried on the depth chart.
Tyler Polak: There’s no debating that the Revs have high hopes for their Generation adidas prospect. After a quiet rookie campaign that only saw him play 30 minutes with the first team, the 20-year-0ld left back flashed some of the flair and technical ability that Heaps and Burns envisioned when they selected him last year. In some respects, he’s still somewhat of a raw talent, and regular minutes can only help him become a more polished player.
Luis Soffner: At the start of the season, Soffner seemed to be the ideal candidate for Rochester duty. As the clear number 3 keeper, perhaps no one of the roster stood to benefit from USL minutes than Soffner. But with Matt Reis’ hamstring keeping him out of Saturday’s match in Philadelphia, the former Hoosier might be needed to stick around a little longer than expected. And if Reis continues to battle injuries? A match fit Soffer can only help the big club.
Donnie Smith: The speedy left-sided midfielder made his MLS debut in the Revolution’s First Kick starting XI against Chicago, and Heaps liked what he saw. With Chris Tierney returning to full health, the rookie’s playing time is only going to dwindle, and an assignment to the Rhinos would seem like a no-brainer. If Rhinos head coach Jesse Myers can help refine Smith’s game, he may be the biggest beneficiary of the Revolution-Rhinos arrangement.