New England Soccer Today

Return on Investment 101

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Revolution head coach Jay Heaps and general manager Mike Burns continue to prove that they’re among the best coach-and-GM-combos in MLS.

After pulling off a collection of eyebrow raising deals that make the Revolution a stronger, playoff-caliber team, the latest piece of handiwork from the dynamic duo came last week, when they re-acquired forward Juan Agudelo in a deal that will reportedly keep him in Foxboro through 2018.

But before we get to that deal, let’s look back at the moves that allowed the Revolution rise from ashes of 2011’s five-win season.

Consider what Heaps and Burns have done in a short period of time without a scouting department and, for the most part, using the tight and limited room the league’s allotted salary cap provides.

The Revolution are masters at the domestic market. They trade allocation money and draft picks away like it’s nobody’s business, but there’s always a motive and a plan behind the madness. Even this offseason, the Revolution managed to turn the Superdraft — in which they only had one pick — into a vehicle that over time gave them the rights to six players: Teal Bunbury, Jeremy Hall, Sean Okoli, Joe Nasco, Marco Fenelus and Brad Knighton.

Some of the deals were higher profile than others. Andrew Farrell, the versatile defender who plays right back and sweeper with equal prowess, was acquired through Heaps and Burns trading up for the no. 1 pick in the 2013 Superdraft with their natural pick (third overall) and cash.

Something similar happened last year, as they were able to swap Michael Parkhurst’s right of first refusal with Columbus and ultimately come away with Patrick Mullins and Steve Neumann, the draft’s hottest prospects.

One year after Jose Goncalves was dissatisfied with his contract to the point where he wasn’t playing, he not only helped lead the Revolution to MLS Cup, but looks ready to resume his role as the rock in the rear in 2015.

Multiple pieces are in play at all times in Burns and Heaps’ schematics, which brings us back to Agudelo.

It was a big deal when the Revolution originally traded for him in May of 2013 because of the splash it made and because Agudelo transformed the attack. Even Ali Curtis, the current sporting director of the Red Bulls who at the time worked as the league’s Director of Player Relations and Competition, told me in a phone interview last year that the Agudelo deal, which was Burns’s baby, made general managers and executives do a double take.

But today’s deal is more impressive. There was a strong rumor that the Revolution would trade Agudelo’s rights away for a higher pick in this year’s Superdraft—most likely to Orlando City SC, people said, because they had the No. 2 pick and because Agudelo trained there last summer.

But instead, Heaps and Burns quietly kept a candle lit over Agudelo’s playing future, sensing there was a way to bring him back to Foxboro.

Agudelo told Sports Illustrated in 2013 that the Revolution had offered him a new contract in hopes of coaxing him away from joining Stoke City (a deal which later collapsed), but called the new deal “unflattering.” And this year, Agudelo had options besides the Revolution, reportedly turning down prospects with 1860 Munich and Wolfsburg to come back to New England.

Now he’s officially back. That took negotiating. And he’s not a designated player. That took negotiating too, getting one of the U.S.’ best hold-up players to join on the salary cap after he called a previous offer “unflattering.”

Don’t count on Heaps and Burns to lose track of which gears are turning. The something-out-of-nothing deals have turned into a trademark that’s yielded both shrewd player investments and playoff quality soccer.

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