TUCSON, Ariz. – New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps gathered his squad into a huddle prior to Thursday morning’s training session to “introduce” the newest member of the club.
Of course, no introduction was necessary.
Femi Hollinger-Janzen – reacquired by the Revolution on Wednesday night after a brief preseason spell with Minnesota United FC – spent last year in New England, making 19 league appearances and registering two goals and one assist as a rookie.
“It’s always a pleasure to bring back a guy who you know well,” said Heaps, who drafted Femi in the third round of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. “It’s almost like starting where we left off.”
New England never wanted to lose Femi in the first place; not after the energetic forward proved to be a sparkplug off the bench last season. But a deep roster left the 23-year-old exposed in December’s Expansion Draft, and Minnesota didn’t hesitate to snap him up with their fifth and final pick.
It was a frustrating – but not entirely unexpected – development.
“It was very disappointing to lose Femi in the Expansion Draft,” said Heaps. “But when you have a deep team and you have players that are available, you know you’re going to lose somebody.”
There was immediate interest from New England to reacquire Femi, but the Revs didn’t make an inquiry with Minnesota right away, instead opting to let both teams develop their rosters through preseason to see if the most beneficial deal could be worked out.
“You don’t start the dialogue right away; you kind of see what your roster looks like,” Heaps said. “But as preseason went on, Minnesota and (General Manager) Mike Burns started to talk, and eventually these things come to fruition.”
In the end the Revs had to part with eight-year veteran Bobby Shuttleworth to get the deal done, but New England’s depth at the goalkeeper position – with Cody Cropper, Brad Knighton and Matt Turner on board – made it a move that the Revs felt comfortable making.
“When an opportunity happens and you have these dialogues, you try to weigh what’s going to make your team better going into the season,” Heaps said. “We feel like we can continue to build with Femi. So the dialogue started to happen and we felt like it was the right time.”
Femi is currently recovering from a minor foot injury – coincidentally suffered in a preseason meeting with the Revs two weeks ago – and won’t be available for selection on Saturday against Colorado, but he does hope to be fit and ready to go for the Revs’ meeting with Sporting KC next Wednesday.