Q & A: Revolution GM Michael Burns

Revolution general manager Michael Burns, seen here talking with club president Brian Bilello prior to the Mar. 23 match vs. Sporting K.C., hopes Diego Fagundez plays in New England "for a long, long time." (Photo: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz)

Revolution general manager Michael Burns, seen here talking with club president Brian Bilello prior to the Mar. 23 match vs. Sporting K.C., hopes Diego Fagundez plays in New England “for a long, long time.” (Photo: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s fair to say the Revolution are putting together a bit of a run right now.

Unbeaten (3-0-2) in their last five, and a 4-2 Open Cup victory over the Red Bulls serving as a reminder that their success isn’t limited to league action, the Revolution appear to be on their way toward a possible playoff march.

Prior to last Saturday’s contest against D.C., New England Soccer Today caught up with Revolution general manager Michael Burns about his views on what’s shaping up to be a promising season in Foxborough.

Note: The following is the first part of a two-part interview, the second of which will be posted on Saturday.

New England Soccer Today: Going back to the 5-0 win over the Galaxy on Jun. 2 - as a general manager, how satisfying of win was that, not only looking at the score line, but also the fact that it was against one the back-to-back defending champions, not to mention one of the most talented clubs in the league?

Michael Burns: We have to put it all in perspective.  We were pleased with the result, but it’s still (just) one game. Granted, it was at home, and it was against the Galaxy, and they’re the defending two-time champs, so every game they play, they’re a target. But they’ve earned the right to be that target. Having said that, if the playoffs started today, we’re still not in it. So while we feel like we’re progressing, and moving forward, we have to keep it in perspective that it’s one win and that’s all it is. We feel like we’ve set the table the last few weeks, but that game is over with. It’s done, we forget about it, and we move on. Hopefully, it gave our guys, our entire staff, coaching staff and players, a certain level confidence and that they believe in themselves to go out and win games. So you have to win games in order for that confidence to carry over. I think that’s really how we looked at it.

NEST: But looking at the score line of that game, specifically, and looking at five different players scoring – from a general manager’s perspective, as someone who put together this team, what does it mean to you?

Burns: We’re pleased with the result. If you look at the full 90 minutes, I don’t think the score line was indicative of the game. I don’t think that they probably feel and that we feel that it was a five-goal game, even I know that’s what the score line said. But it was a much more competitive game than that, for sure. We were able to, fortunately, get a few goals there at the end, but I don’t think 5-0 was indicative of that game. It’s still good, though. It’d been a long, long time since we’ve scored five goals (laughs), so again, to the confidence of the players and credit to the players, and for carrying through and playing the full 90 minutes, it’s good for sure. But we want to build on that and move forward.

NEST: How would you characterize where this team is right now? You said that if the season ended today, they wouldn’t make the playoffs. But given the way the season started, and then comparing that start to where they are right now, how would you characterize the progress that has been made since then?

Burns: I had been speaking recently that, before the past three games (prior to June 8), we were 2-4-4. And it’s the same group of guys. So all of a sudden, we get three wins, and we feel a lot more confident. We feel like we’re back in the mix, which we are, but we’re still not there (in a playoff spot). I think everyone here, collectively, to a player, to a coach, myself – I feel like we still have a lot of work to do and we have more to do, and get a lot more wins and prove that we belong in contention to make the playoffs. We haven’t done that in the past few years. We believe that we have the ability and the mental makeup in this locker room to get to the playoffs. But then again, everyone does. So the results are the only thing that matter.  These recent results have given us confidence in the players that we feel we can go out and play and beat anyone. And you need that to be successful.

NEST: You can’t help but notice one of the players who has pointed the club toward achieving that confidence is Diego Fagundez. Take me back to a few years ago when you first saw him play – what was the first thing that struck you about him and his ability?

Burns: You really never know. But when we saw him as a 15-year-old, and when we signed him as a 15-year-old, we didn’t sign him thinking he was going to play the next day for the senior team. At that point, you’re signing a player who you feel has a lot of potential. I still say that three years later. He’s still a player that has a lot of potential, but he’s come an awful long way in the last three years, in terms of his confidence, his ability on the field, his comfort level on the field and off the field, in the locker room, traveling- all that sort of stuff, including his maturation, has come a long way in the last three years. Right now, he’s playing with an awful lot of confidence and sometimes, I think everyone loses sight that he’s still only 18. He’s the only player on the team who’s trying to juggle being a professional soccer player and high school classes, prom, all that sort of stuff. But he’s doing remarkably better now. As each year passes, in terms of managing his time, managing himself, on the field and off the field, he’s improved. The last few weeks in particular, he really feels he’s playing well. He’s getting confidence, and he adds a dimension to our team that, frankly, not a lot of guys can provide, regardless of his age.

NEST: Would you say that he’s just starting to hit that potential?

Burns: No, I don’t think he’s starting to hit that potential. Even as an 18-year-old, there’s no way I think that he’s where he think he can be, and where he wants to be. And that might not all take place this year, as an 18-year-old. I’m talking about over his career, I’m sure, I think and hope, that the last few weeks have just been a prelude to what he’s capable of as he gets older and even more mature and more games and more experience. He still hasn’t played a full season or back-to-back seasons on a year-in, year-out, and that’ll come. He’s only 18 – but for an 18-year-old, he’s done pretty well.

NEST: What do you think is his potential?

Burns: At this point, honestly, if he can stay on the right course, mentally, physically, it’s probably unlimited. He sees the game so well, he’s very smart, he can create, he can score, he’s good technically, so it’s impossible for me to say what his potential is, but…it’s a lot.

NEST: Going back to a couple of months ago when he re-signed his extension – what spurred the conversation that led to him re-upping with the club, given that he still had another year remaining on his original deal?

Burns: Diego had signed with a Uruguayan agent and he had come to me while his agent was visiting Boston, and said that one of the main reasons (his agent) was here was that he wanted to sit down to see if it made sense for both sides to get something done. So they kind of initiated it. You never really know where it’s going to end up, where they’re at from a contractual standpoint, from a playing standpoint, country standpoint, all that sort of stuff factors into it. His age factors into it, too. But when we sat down, it just seemed to make a lot of sense for both sides. We’re really pleased that he wanted to re-up and remain in New England and I think he said it – and I don’t want to speak for him – but I think he’s pretty pleased as well to remain here.  And like I said, he is only 18, he’ll be a very young man still when his next contract expires, so he’s got an awful lot of time to play a lot of soccer and we hope to keep him here in New England for a long time.

NESt: How long do you think he will be here for?

Burns: It’s impossible to say, but who knows? I hope for a long, long time. But in this game, things can change so rapidly that you have to be prepared for a lot of different things. But I’m glad he’s with us right now.

NEST: Talking about another attacking player – Juan Agudelo – a player that the club acquired last month, can you tell me what kind of discussions were held leading up to him arriving in New England? Was it something that Chivas USA approached the Revolution about or was it something that Revolution presented to them?

Burns: It was a combination of both. There’s so much talk that goes on amongst the teams that is really never made public in terms of trades. We’ll get calls regularly about guys and we inquire, and 95 percent of the time, nothing ever materializes out of it. We weren’t sure if Juan was a player that they would move. As it turned out, he was and when it became real after a few discussions, we felt it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Everyone knows his contract situation (Editor’s note: Agudelo’s contract expires at the end of the season), but we felt that he has almost exactly what we were looking for. He’s been great and I don’t just mean on the field, but he’s a young player as well, and people forget that sometimes. When you meet him and see him, he’s a good sized kid, he’s a big guy, and he’s only 20-years-old. His transition has been seamless. He’s 20-years-old, and he went from New York to Chivas USA to New England and honestly, you’d think that he has been here for three years. The way he’s gelled with the players, in the locker room and off the field, has been remarkable. And that doesn’t always happen. That doesn’t always happen for 30-year-olds that have moved within the league. It’s really helped him fit right into the locker room and that carries over onto the field. I think he’s enjoyed his brief time here so far and obviously when you score a couple of goals and win a few games, that helps, too.

NEST: As talented as Juan is, he’s also been somebody who’s now been traded twice within a year’s time. Why do you think that is?

Burns: It would be pure speculation for me to say anything about that.  Honestly, it would be inappropriate for me to say why New York and Chivas USA may have decided to move him.

NEST: Have there been any negotiations about extending him beyond this season?

Burns: No, but there will be a time for that, without question. But he just arrived a month ago. We need to give him time to settle in, he just moved into his apartment. So there’ll be time for that. There’ll be a time where we’ll sit down and see what he wants to do. But it’s probably a bit premature at this point just because he’s so new to New England.

NEST: Has the club considered using the designated player tag to re-sign him?

Burns: We haven’t had any of those kinds of discussions yet.

Join us on Saturday for Part 2 of our exclusive interview to get the general manager’s perspective on club captain Jose Goncalves, the summer transfer window and the club’s new affiliation with Rochester.

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About Brian O'Connell

Brian O'Connell serves as editor and staff writer at New England Soccer Today. He's also the Revolution beat writer for ESPNBoston.com, and is Officer at Large for the North American Soccer Reporters. He regularly contributes to The Associated Press, and has been featured on MLSSoccer.com & RevsNet.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianOConnell21 or contact him via e-mail at BOConnell21@aol.com