New England Soccer Today

No Jones, No Problem: Revs Look Ahead w/ Kouassi

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

The symmetry is impossible to overlook.

Barely 15 months after the Revolution signed Jermaine Jones to a designated player contract, the club went out and made a rich deal with another ball-winning midfielder by acquiring FC Sion’s Xavier Kouassi on Monday.

Although the likelihood of a still-unsigned Jones returning to the local outfit appears to grow darker as the winter progresses, Revolution coach Jay Heaps cautioned that Kouassi’s signing doesn’t necessarily end the club’s pursuit of Jones.

“In terms of a needed role, I think we’re kind of adding to the team and moving forward with Jermaine or without Jermaine, and that’s to be determined,” Heaps said via teleconference on Monday. “But right now, we want to strengthen our group, and Xavier does that.”

While Kouassi won’t officially arrive until his contract with Sion expires on Jun. 30, it’s evident based on the description Heaps offered that the newcomer will be asked to undertake the same duties that Jones performed during his brief time in New England.

At 5-8, 152 lbs., the 26-year-old isn’t as physically imposing as the 6-1, 170 lbs. Jones. But in Heaps’ view, what Kouassi lacks in size is reconciled in the way in which he plays.

“He’s a player we’re excited about,” Heaps said. “He’s a player that we spent a lot of time tracking, and he fits the team that we have, he’s strong, a ball-winner, cuts out passing lanes, very quick and will help us in transition.”

There’s no doubt that the Revolution have lived and died by the way they perform in transition. During their MLS Cup final-clinching 2014 campaign, the locals were deadly on the counter, catching opponents flat-footed through quick attacking movements, and precision in the final third.

The proverbial script was flipped on the Revolution the following season, though. With Jones on the shelf for chunks of the season, opposing forces found it much easier to weave through New England’s weakened midfield. Combining that development with the significant changes at center back and right back meant that the Revolution were often put in uncompromising positions far too often en route to a disappointing fifth-place finish.

So the Revolution brain trust went to work. Without the benefit of a blind draw, the likes of Heaps, Michael Burns, and assistant coach Tom Soehn hit the ground in Switzerland during the offseason in search of someone who’d change the equation in 2016.

“We took in a lot of games,” Heaps said, “and with what we were looking for, we started talking to a lot of different people that were connected, and we kind of described what we were looking for: a ball-winning midfielder, physical, strong, and hard to tackle.”

Heaps said that once they saw Kouassi play in person, it was clear that the traveling Revolution contingent had found just what they were looking for.

“It was pretty much right there in front of us,” Heaps said. “He cuts out passing lanes, he can play the 6 or the 8, he drives forward into the attack, but he can also – I think the game we watched, he was the holding no. 6, and sat in front of the back four, and the team was playing a pretty dynamic 4-3-3. He had to sit and hold and shield the center backs, so I think he’s versatile, I like that about him.”

But position flexibility – an attribute that Jones also boasted during his time in Foxboro – wasn’t the only thing that appealed to Heaps.

“He can play different scenarios,” Heaps said. “He’s not afraid to have the ball at his feet.”

Time will tell whether Kouassi and Jones will ever share the same locker room. When asked about the status of the club’s negotiations with the U.S. international, Heaps only went so far as to categorize them as “ongoing.”

While Burns attends to that order of business, it appears Heaps is indeed ready to press forward with Kouassi as the club’s next midfield general.

“We’re building here,” Heaps said. “We’re trying to add players who compliment the players we have, and I think he does that.”

Another thing that the Kouassi deal signifies? That the club appears to have moved on from their previous designated player signing.

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