New England Soccer Today

Filling the gaps

With preseason already underway, the New England Revolution still have some holes left on the roster that need filling. The Revs are expected to finalize three international signings in the next week or so and though the names are yet unknown, it’s pretty clear where the team’s needs lie.

Chris Tierney

Several Revs showed their versatility in 2010, none more than Chris Tierney (pictured), but the Revs would be better served if their players could stick to their preferred positions in 2011. (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/

In truth, the Revs still need help across the field, but some areas clearly need it more than others. With that in mind, here’s where the Revs should focus their efforts.

1. A top class striker. The Revs have plenty of depth up top, especially after taking three players in the MLS SuperDraft that can play striker. While Steven Perry, Ryan Kinne, and Alan Koger should provide much needed competition and all add different abilities to the offense, it’s unrealistic to count on any of them to be a double digit goal-scorer, let alone come close to replacing Taylor Twellman’s contributions in their rookie season. At this point in his career, Kheli Dube seems unlikely to ever be that player, while little from last season indicated Zack Schilawski will be ready to make that leap this season.

If the Revs do go into the season with veteran striker Ilija Stolica as the team’s starting striker, they will already be better off than they were to start 2010. Stolica should be even better this season after a preseason to get on the same page as his teammates. That said, he would still have to greatly increase his production to become the needed scorer for the team this season.

If the team can find a productive second forward to play off of Stolica, while allowing Marko Perovic to move into the midfield, the potential for an effective partnership exists. A player in the mold of upcoming free agent and once rumored transfer target, Fenerbahce’s Alex de Souza, could fit the bill perfectly. But if Stolica is to play as a lone forward up top, the Revs will likely struggle again offensively.

2. Competition in the midfield. If the Revs are sticking with a 4-4-2, which seems likely, they need to find a true two-way midfielder to partner with Shalrie Joseph. 2011 MLS SuperDraft pick Stephen McCarthy should provide competition for Pat Phelan, but the Revs could feel a lot more confident going into the season if they could find an experienced and proven box-to-box center midfielder.

French veteran Ousmane Dabo has been linked to the team, but doesn’t seem likely to provide the needed offensive punch the Revs want from the position, unless the team is again exploring a 3-5-2. Supplemental Draft picks Fernando Cabadas and Andrew Sousa could provide more competition here, but also can’t be relied upon to make too big of an impact their first professional season.

Elsewhere in the midfield the Revs need to better service from the wings. If Marko Perovic moves back to left midfield that would likely solve half the problem. On the right, the Revs need more consistent, quality service out of Sainey Nyassi. Ideally, a veteran presence to continue to help Nyassi develop, while pushing him for a starting spot, would be the solution. If one can’t be found, the team will hope for SuperDraft pick Ryan Kinne to potentially be the team’s first option off the bench and challenge for playing time after proving a consistent playmaker during his time in college.

3. Depth in defense. The Revs starting backline of Kevin Alston, Didier Domi, Darrius Barnes, and Ryan Cochrane or rookie A.J. Soares already looks a solid improvement from last season and the team is likely to feel confident going into the season with that back four. Depth is still a major issue, however. While Seth Sinovic and Chris Tierney provide solid cover at left back, the team still needs more options in the center and on the right.

With Barnes, Cochrane, and Alston all missing a significant portion of last season with injuries, the team would be asking a lot to expect all three to make it through the season unscathed. In the center, at least one more centerback to bring to the team’s total to four would help avoid the crisis situations the squad faced last year. With only three centerbacks on the roster in 2010 (Barnes, Emmanuel Osei and Cory Gibbs, with the latter two subsequently taking their talents elsewhere), the Revs were forced to play midfielders Pat Phelan and Joseph Niouky in defense at times when all three were injured. Going into last season with five defenders was poor planning, and the six currently on the roster isn’t enough of an improvement.

At right back, Barnes, Osei, and Tierney all saw time in Alston’s absences and none of them looked very comfortable in the role. Finding a solid back-up for Alston, who’s  hamstring problems created a void at right back for a considerable length last season, is a must for 2011. If the Revs are again forced to move starters around, it only further compounds the problem by playing new players in two roles instead of just inserting a player directly into one. Young players, especially, would be better served perfecting their preferred positions instead of constantly moving around.

Of course even if the starters do stay healthy, the Revs aren’t even close to being able to field a back four of natural defenders for the reserve team.

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