FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution’s locker room may be empty and the club’s practice field barren while many of the players spend the winter months in warmer climates, but that doesn’t mean the Revolution’s technical staff isn’t still hard at work within the halls of Gillette Stadium.
After missing out on the postseason for the first time in nine years, the Revs know there is work to be done and changes to be made this offseason as they aim to reclaim a spot amongst the league’s elite.
With the first-ever Re-Entry Process set to kick off on Wednesday afternoon with the Stage 1 Draft – not to mention the beginning of the Discovery period this past Monday – league-wide offseason roster movement is sure to ramp up in the coming weeks and months.
Of course, much of the behind-the-scenes work is already well underway, so here’s a glance at what’s been happening in Foxborough in recent weeks.
Technical staff scouts in Africa, Europe and South America
Head coach Steve Nicol and his staff have redefined the term “frequent flyer” this offseason, traveling to three foreign continents to scout players as the club looks to improve in all facets ahead of the 2011 campaign. Including college tournaments around the United States, the Revs have covered (or will be covering) four continents in the search for talent.
Trips have either already been made or will be made to Niger, Nigeria, Norway and Argentina. Of course, additional trips may still be scheduled.
Partly in response to their recent scouting trips, the Revs placed several Discovery claims when the window opened earlier this week. For those unfamiliar with the Discovery process, a relatively clear explanation can be found on the league’s web site (under the heading (E) DISCOVERY SIGNINGS).
It should be stated that the Discovery process is fluid, with players regularly coming on and off teams’ Discovery lists. To put it in perspective, only a small percentage of players league-wide who have Discovery claims placed on them actually sign with MLS clubs.
However, this is certainly the first step in the process as the club looks to strengthen its roster ahead of the 2011 season.
Revs decline options on Burpo, Colaluca, Gibbs and Smith
Last Friday it was announced that four Revolution players would be eligible for the 2010 Re-Entry Process after having their 2011 options declined by the club. Those four players were goalkeeper Preston Burpo, midfielders Nico Colaluca and Khano Smith, and defender Cory Gibbs.
Both Burpo and Gibbs recently completed their first seasons with the Revolution after arriving in an offseason trade from the Colorado Rapids.
Burpo – who was brought in to serve as the starting goalkeeper while long-time starter Matt Reis recovered from offseason surgery – was solid in his replacement duties before a horrific double leg-break ended his season in late May. Gibbs, a former U.S. international, made a career-high 25 starts at both center and left back.
Colaluca and Smith played smaller roles in 2010. The 24-year-old Colaluca, who also arrived via trade with Colorado in May 2009, made a total of seven appearances in his two seasons with the Revs, including just one substitute appearance in 2010. In his second go-round with the Revolution, Smith made 16 appearances (six starts) and recorded one assist after signing with the club in March.
Players not selected in either stage of the Re-Entry Process will be available to all clubs on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Reis offered new contract as he continues to recover from offseason ankle surgery
One player who will not be eligible for selection in the Re-Entry Process is the aforementioned Reis, who received a new contract offer from the Revolution as his current deal is set to expire at the end of this month.
While Reis has yet to officially accept the offer – details of which are unavailable – the veteran goalkeeper appears devoted to the Revolution’s cause and spoke in November as if he planned to be back in Foxborough for the 2011 campaign.
“I’ve talked with the powers that be long before today and got an idea of what they want to do and what we want to do,” Reis told MLSsoccer.com’s Kyle McCarthy shortly after the season ended. “I’m committed to the Revolution. I’ve been here for the good times, and, unfortunately, the last year was a bit of the bad times. I’m committed to helping this team rebuild and get back to where we need to be and fighting for a MLS Cup every year.”
Reis is currently recovering from October surgery on his right ankle and is on course for a return to action in mid-January, just in time for the start of MLS preseason camps.
Fagundez off to scorching start with Revolution Under-16s
When 15-year-old Diego Fagundez became the Revolution’s first-ever Home Grown Player with his signing in mid-November, it was expected that Revs fans would follow his progression as he continues to develop with the club’s Under-16 team.
But I’m not sure anyone expected he’d provide so much to talk about so soon.
Fagundez has racked up a remarkable eight goals in the first five games of the 2010-11 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season, leading the Revolution’s Under-16 side to a 2-2-1 record as the youth teams head into the winter break.
The Leominster, Mass., resident started the season with a stunning four-goal performance in a 5-1 win over Westchester on Nov. 20, then followed that up with another goal the following day in a 1-1 draw with Albertson SC.
Fagundez added to his tally with three more goals at the Development Academy Winter Showcase this past weekend in Phoenix, Ariz., scoring the Revs’ lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Thunder and finishing twice in a 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City. On top of that, the dynamic midfielder assisted on the only goal he didn’t score in Phoenix – Peguy Ngatcha’s strike in a 3-1 loss to the North Carolina Fusion.
At this point it’s critical to remember that Fagundez is still playing at the Under-16 age level – which puts his performances in perspective – and the youngster still has years of development ahead, but eight goals in five games speaks well to his emerging talent.
Oh, and there’s also the fact that Director of Youth Development Bryan Scales said Fagundez has looked “a little rusty” in recording eight goals and one assist in five games. That’s because Fagundez hasn’t played competitive soccer since the Revs U16s were eliminated from the Development Academy Playoffs back in June.
All told, not bad for a kid still finding his feet.