FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Two of the New England Revolution’s primary goals this offseason are to add veteran experience to a young core and introduce a bit of steel into a skillful midfield. The club took a significant step in accomplishing both of those objectives with Monday afternoon’s acquisition of midfielder Kalifa Cisse.
Cisse has eight years of European experience, including successful stints with Reading FC in the Barclays Premier League and Bristol City in the English Championship. Although he has the ability to play in central defense – another area the Revs have targeted for improvement this offseason – the physically imposing Cisse is expected to occupy a central midfield role in New England.
“Ultimately, the decision will be up to the coaches in terms of where he plays, but (during) the time he spent here for [a weeklong training stint] he played in central midfield, so we’re looking at that now,” said General Manager Michael Burns. “The search continues to bring in additional players and we’re going to focus on the defense this offseason, as well, in terms of trying to add some players on the backline.
“We know [Cisse] can play in the midfield and depending on what other acquisitions are made this offseason, he’s also a player we think can play in the back. But that will remain to be seen once we get in preseason and see what our full roster looks like.”
When Cisse does arrive for preseason training, he’ll already be familiar with his surroundings. The French-born Mali international spent one week training with the Revolution in early October and the experience proved beneficial for both player and club.
“It’s not always easy – and sometimes it’s impossible – to get players to come over here and train for a couple days,” said Burns. “But when we’re able to set it up and the player is accommodating and willing to come over, we feel like it helps us on a lot of fronts.
“We get to see the player play – which is the most important thing – but also play with our players. And it’s not just playing with our players in training sessions, but you also get to see his interaction with our players, you get to see his interaction with our coaching staff and he actually gets to see the facilities.”
At the end of the training stint both sides were confident the pairing was a match – Cisse noted it was “an easy decision” to join the Revs in a statement released by the team – prompting the deal which adds the 28-year-old to New England’s impressive stable of midfielders.
“The expectations are going to certainly be high for him to come in here,” said Burns. “But we think he has the ability, for sure, to help us on and off the field as we continue to evolve and hopefully continue improving next year.”