FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There were approximately 15 hours between the conclusion of Sunday’s MLS Cup final and the deadline to exercise or decline contract options for next season. That didn’t leave much time for New England Revolution players and staff to lick their wounds.
On Sunday evening – just hours after another heartbreaking defeat in the final – Revs general manager Michael Burns and head coach Jay Heaps met with each individual player to discuss the future.
In many cases, those meetings consisted of informing players whether or not they’d be back next year.
“They were the most difficult meetings I’ve certainly ever had to partake in, having to conduct those meetings immediately following the MLS Cup final,” said Burns. “We made it very clear to the players that this wasn’t ideal for us. We know it wasn’t ideal for them, but it was required.”
Burns said the decision was made to conduct face-to-face meetings at the team hotel in California so players would avoid hearing the news via other channels when it became public on Monday morning.
“The players understood it,” Burns said. “They knew we were in a situation where we had to have those meetings, even though we didn’t really want to. They understood it and that was important for us.”
Revs decline nine options, continue negotiations with three out-of-contract players
In total, nine players had their 2015 contract options declined by the Revolution, while Stephen McCarthy is now out of contract after the club declined to extend him a bona fide offer when his deal expired. McCarthy is eligible to participate in the Re-Entry Draft, with Stage One scheduled for Friday.
Three other players (Brad Knighton, A.J. Soares and Teal Bunbury) also have contracts which expire following the 2014 season, but the Revs continue to negotiate with that trio in the hopes of bringing them back for the 2015 campaign.
Both Knighton and Soares have been extended bona fide offers by MLS on behalf of the Revs, making them ineligible for the Re-Entry Draft. Bunbury is also not Re-Entry Draft eligible, and the Revs hope to keep him around after an impressive first year in New England.
“We hope that he’s going to want to sign to return to the Revs,” Burns said with regards to Bunbury. “We’ll have those discussions in the next couple of weeks.”
Revs protect 11 ahead of Expansion Draft, work out deal to keep Fagundez
Not only was Monday the deadline to exercise or decline contract options, but it was also the day each MLS club had to submit a list of 11 players to protect ahead of the Expansion Draft.
New York City FC and Orlando City SC – both of which begin MLS play next season – will each make 10 selections in this year’s Expansion Draft, set for Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET. No current team can have more than two players selected, while clubs also have the opportunity to protect one additional player after the first player from their roster is chosen.
Players whom the Revs weren’t able to fit on their protected list include veterans Darrius Barnes and Andy Dorman, as well as a pair of 2014 first-round SuperDraft picks in Steve Neumann and Patrick Mullins. It’s a case in which roster depth actually makes the Revs susceptible to losing players.
“It was a lot of work and a lot of time and effort put in to try to create as deep a team as possible, and we think that’s one of the reasons for some of our success this year,” said Burns, who noted that the club understands the Expansion Draft is for the good of the league. “Speaking frankly, there’ve been some times in the past where it wasn’t as challenging as this year in terms of our protected list.
“You want to retain as many players as you can, but you understand that there’s a chance you’re going to lose one, if not two guys. You don’t want to, but that’s the reality of it.”
One player the Revolution won’t be losing in the Expansion Draft is Diego Fagundez, despite initial concerns when the protected lists were revealed on Monday.
The 19-year-old winger no longer falls under the automatic protection of Homegrown Players – like Scott Caldwell – because he signed a new contract with the Revolution prior to the 2013 season. That left him vulnerable for selection when he wasn’t on New England’s protected list. Or so it appeared.
But in fact the Revs had already struck deals with both Orlando City and NYC FC to ensure that Fagundez wouldn’t be selected on Wednesday, keeping him in Foxborough for 2015.
“Although Diego Fagundez is not protected, he will be back with us next year,” said Burns. “We conducted a trade that he will not be selected in the Expansion Draft on Wednesday.”
Trade with Colorado helps Revs protect more domestic players in Expansion Draft
In preparation for the Expansion Draft, the Revolution made one other move during Monday morning’s trade window, sending forwards Geoffrey Castillion and Dimitry Imbongo to the Colorado Rapids in exchange for goalkeeper Joe Nasco. The teams also swapped draft picks, with the Revs sending their natural second-round SuperDraft pick to Colorado and receiving the Rapids’ natural third-round pick in return.
The Revs then declined the 2015 contract option on Nasco, while the Rapids declined next year’s options on both Castillion and Imbongo.
To understand the trade, a deeper understanding of how protected lists work is necessary. Because of roster rules in MLS, clubs can only make a certain number of international players available in the Expansion Draft – which means they also must protect a certain number of international players.
For a full list of the Expansion Draft rules, click here.
With Castillion and Imbongo on the roster – along with Jose Goncalves, Daigo Kobayashi and Jerry Bengtson – the Revs had five internationals and would’ve been required to protect three. The trade left the Revs with only three internationals, meaning they only had to protect two (Goncalves and Kobayashi).
“The trade with Colorado really was a direct result of preparing for the Expansion Draft on Wednesday,” said Burns. “Under normal circumstances, this trade probably wouldn’t have taken place. But having been at five international players, by reducing the number of international players by two, allowed us to protect another domestic player in the Expansion Draft.
“We basically traded away two international players to open up a slot to protect a domestic player. That’s the main reason for that trade.”
Imbongo spent two-and-a-half seasons with the Revs, scoring four goals and adding four assists in 32 regular-season appearances. He also added one playoff goal in two postseason appearances. He made just two appearances in 2014, totaling 32 minutes.
“Dimitry was in a situation where he’d been with us for a little while,” said Burns. “He didn’t play as much this year as I think he would’ve liked. That was factored into it.”
Castillion signed with the Revs in late August, making one appearance as a substitute. He struggled to break into a Revs side which hit stride through the latter part of the campaign, going 9-1-1 to close the regular season before a postseason run to MLS Cup.
“We kind of got on a good roll, and he never really got an opportunity to play,” Burns said of the young Dutch forward. “We just didn’t see that changing for us next year.
“It was just two guys that we didn’t see fitting into our plans for next year. With the Expansion Draft, it made sense.”