New England Soccer Today

Newcomers Make Immediate Impact

Photo credit: Jeff Bernstein

Photo credit: Jeff Bernstein

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – With the departure of Jermaine Jones and a right back position that was never settled in 2015, the New England Revolution had two major holes to fill entering the 2016 season. Enter Gershon Koffie and Je-Vaughn Watson.

Ghanaian midfielder Koffie came to the Revolution in a February 11 trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps, giving the 24-year-old midfielder just three weeks to adjust to his new teammates and to fill the shoes of departing Designated Player and U.S. National Team star Jermaine Jones in central midfield.

Jamaican right back Je-Vaughn Watson wasn’t officially a Revolution player until a trade with FC Dallas the Friday before the regular season started, though he joined the team for preseason training in time for the club’s final preseason match. The 32-year-old right back was tasked with providing stability to a position that saw a time share in 2015 between London Woodberry, Jeremy Hall, and Kevin Alston, with the latter two both departing in the offseason.

Both were in the starting line-up in New England’s season opening 3-3 draw in Houston and again in their scoreless home opener against D.C. United on Saturday.

“They’re both really good players and players that we’ve wanted, quite frankly, for a little while,” said Head Coach Jay Heaps after the Revolution’s draw with D.C.. “Both guys are hard, physical players, but they bring an element of soccer that I think is really clear. Je-Vaughn [Watson] shows you how good his feet are. I thought Gersh [Koffie] had an excellent game winning balls in the middle and then finding Lee [Nguyen] or Diego [Fagundez] to help spring our attacks. I think we still have a little bit of ways to go with them in the final kind of getting them with the system and how we want to play, but at the same time I couldn’t be happier that we have both these guys in there.”

Koffie may have had more time to adjust to his new teammates than Watson, but plays a central midfield role where chemistry with his fellow midfield partners is of extreme importance. In preseason he saw a lot of minutes next to Kelyn Rowe and got the start opening weekend with him as his partner. This weekend, it was Scott Caldwell getting the start beside him. Koffie didn’t seem to miss a beat.

“It’s not easy [stepping into a new team],” said Koffie. “The boys here are very great people. They are good players as well, just like me. The coaches make their plans and they know what’s best for the team that weekend and that’s what they do, but I don’t think it’s easy.”

For Caldwell’s part, despite limited preseason opportunities to adapt to Koffie, adjusting to playing with the new midfield partner has come “pretty easy.”

“It’s pretty easy to adapt to Koffie; he’s a great player,” said Caldwell. “You saw just the first half alone I think he won every single ball he challenged. He’s great on the ball too. Someone like that it’s easy to just fit in right next to and keep plugging along.”

Meanwhile, Watson has stepped almost seamlessly into the right back spot, which earned him, along with Koffie, the praise of fellow Revolution fullback Chris Tierney, the team’s longest tenured player.

“They’re both experienced players in this league that have proven their quality before joining us, so it’s exactly what we expected,” said Tierney. “I think Je-Vaughn gives us something down the right side that we haven’t had in a while which is just out and out pace and he’s good on the ball as well and then Gersh, I think you can see right off the bat how good he is as a ball winner in center midfield and controlling the game for us.”

Watson’s and Koffie’s impact has shown in several areas, but perhaps most notably is in passing. Both rank in the team’s top five in passing accuracy on the team with Watson at 84.1% and Koffie at 80.8% through two games and both are among the team’s top five in average passes per game with Watson at 44 and Koffie at 49.5. Perhaps most interestingly, the two have found each other more often than not, combining for 26 passes on Saturday, more than any other pair on the team.

“I’ve known Je-Vaughn when he was with Dallas,” said Koffie. “We’ve kept in contact a lot. Him coming here is a good thing for me, we communicate on the field more. Most of the time when I have the ball he’s my outlet that I can give, instead of trying to play something inside, I try to play him simple.”

The two also lead the team in tackles with Koffie averaging four per game and Watson 3.5. Koffie’s also second in interceptions with three per game, and Watson leads the team in blocks with one per game and dribbles with 2.5 per game.

And these impressive showings have come despite the two having only been with the team for a month in Koffie’s case or just a couple of weeks in Watson’s case. More time with their teammates is likely to bring out even better showings from the pair.

“I think those two you only see them get better as they get more comfortable just integrating with the rest of our squad,” said Tierney.

Their next chance to continue to improve comes Sunday, March 20, when the team travels to Philadelphia to face the Union at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Leave a Reply