TUCSON, Ariz. – As more and more Major League Soccer teams form new partnerships with USL PRO clubs, the New England Revolution and Rochester Rhinos have simply strengthened their bond.
The Revs and Rhinos announced on Tuesday morning that they’ve renewed the deal which makes the Rhinos the official USL PRO affiliate of the Revolution. What that means is for a second straight year, the Revs will loan a minimum of four players to the Rhinos for the upcoming season, providing a chance for players who wouldn’t be seeing the field in New England to get meaningful games in Rochester.
As with any newer venture there are still kinks to work out in the long term, but after loaning four players to Rochester for the 2013 season, New England felt there were obvious benefits.
“There was some real value in it for us last year,” said General Manager Michael Burns. “The best example I can give is when Bilal Duckett came out to Portland, had some games under his belt, was game fit, played 90 minutes and made a solid contribution in that game to help us.”
Burns is referring to the Revolution’s 0-0 draw against the Portland Timbers on May 2. When injuries ravaged New England’s backline, Duckett was recalled from Rochester and asked to start at right back. Had he simply been training with the Revolution, Duckett might not have been match fit, but as he was seeing regular minutes in Rochester, he stepped in seamlessly and helped the Revs secure a shutout.
That, of course, represented an immediate benefit, but as for the longer-term rewards – for instance, developing younger players – time will be required. While all four of the players loaned to Rochester last season (Duckett, Matt Horth, Gabe Latigue and Tyler Polak) were released by New England at the end of the season, that won’t always be the case.
“It’s not the way you plan it out,” Burns admitted. “I think if you look across the league, a lot of your developmental players who are first- or second-year guys – whether it’s in New England or anywhere in MLS – turn over at a more rapid rate than some of your other players … We didn’t retain any of those players, but we don’t foresee that to always be the case.”
Burns and the Revolution’s staff, in conjunction with Rhinos head coach Bob Lilley and Rochester’s staff, will make a decision in the coming weeks as to which Revolution players will be loaned to Rochester for the 2014 season. An announcement will be made closer to the start of the season in early March.
While many clubs around MLS are still working their way into the first season of an affiliation, New England is one of four clubs heading into a second year, and Burns believes it can only be a positive that the Revs have something of a head start.
“More and more MLS teams are forming affiliations with USL PRO and I think that’s obviously the way it’s trending,” said Burns. “We’re happy that we got in last year as opposed to this year.”