Delamea “really thankful” for JetBlue MVP award, but prefers team success

Antonio Mlinar Delamea vs. Colorado Rapids

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – On a personal level, Antonio Delamea was pleased with how his first season with the New England Revolution unfolded. He anchored the Revolution’s backline from day one, starting 29 games and wearing the captain’s armband on several occasions. His individual performances earned him deserved accolades, including the club’s JetBlue Most Valuable Player award and multiple call-ups to the Slovenia National Team for critical World Cup qualifiers.

But what truly solidifies Delamea’s importance to the Revolution – what makes him the team MVP and a respected voice in the locker room – is that he’d trade all of those individual honors for a taste of the team success that eluded the Revs in the 2017 season.

“I really appreciate it. I’m really thankful that they recognize I put everything I have on the field,” Delamea said of winning the fan-voted MVP award. “But on the other hand, this doesn’t mean a lot to me because our season was not good as a team. We didn’t reach our goal. We didn’t make it to the playoffs.

“It will be better for me if I don’t win this award and we made it to the playoffs. I appreciate everyone who gave me the award, but I hope we’ll do better next year.”

Delamea is confident that next year will be better on both the team and individual levels, as the 26-year-old center back now has a solid foundation to build from after completing his first professional season outside Slovenia.

The 2017 campaign was a learning experience for Delamea, who’s now acclimated to a new country, a new way of life, a new team and perhaps most importantly, a new league unlike any he’d played in previously.

“It will definitely help me. I got some experience this year,” Delamea said. “I learned a lot about this league and this can only help me to grow next season.

“I definitely learned that it’s a physical-oriented league. Every game is much harder than I was used to in Slovenia. It’s one of the main things I’ve learned in this league.”

Delamea also referenced the difficulties of travel in MLS – the Revs remarkably went 12-2-3 at home, but just 1-13-3 on the road in 2017 – and said he’ll be better prepared for the rigors of away games in 2018.

Preparing for 2018 will be Delamea’s focus in the coming months as he and his wife will remain in Massachusetts while awaiting the birth of their first child. While speculation swirls as the Revs continue their search for their next head coach, Delamea said he “won’t be thinking about this much,” as his energy will be spent on making sure he’s in top shape come late January.

“I think there’s much I can improve. I can give much more to the team,” Delamea said. “But also, I think we will all work better as a team next year. I don’t give much to individual [performances], because soccer is a team sport. I just hope that next year we’ll come out stronger as a team, and we can make something that our fans will appreciate.”