FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Just two weeks after naming Brad Friedel head coach the New England Revolution have taken a major step toward shaping the roster for his first season in charge.
Nine players had their contract options for 2018 exercised on Monday evening, including U.S. National Team members Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe, last year’s leading scorer Kei Kamara, and local products Scott Caldwell, Zach Herivaux, and Chris Tierney.
That leaves New England’s roster at 14 players heading into the new year – Antonio Delamea, Claude Dielna, Diego Fagundez, Krisztián Németh and Lee Nguyen were already under contract for 2018 – and that group represents a base on which Friedel and his staff can build.
“We’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple weeks going through every single player, every single scenario, every single situation as we reconstruct our roster for 2018 and beyond,” said General Manager Michael Burns. “I’m glad Brad was part of the process. Brad … was instrumental in the process.”
Seven players had their contract options for 2018 declined, including center back Benjamin Angoua, who spent the 2017 season on loan to New England from French club EA Guingamp. Angoua’s loan deal included an option for the Revs to transfer the player permanently, but they declined.
“We’re going to move on,” said Burns.
Most notably the Revolution also declined the 2018 option on DP midfielder Xavier Kouassi, along with Donnie Smith, Josh Smith, Je-Vaughn Watson, London Woodberry, and Brian Wright.
As in years past, Burns indicated that although those players had their options declined, the Revs remain open to the possibility of discussing new deals with “a few” players from that group.
“There are some options that have been declined that we wish the players well and they’ll be moving on,” Burns said. “There are a few players that will not have their options exercised, but we will try to have conversations to have them return to New England.”
It’s a similar scenario for Brad Knighton, Teal Bunbury, Andrew Farrell, and Daigo Kobayashi, all of whom will see their contracts expire at the end of 2017. Knighton, however, is the only Revolution player eligible for free agency when the process begins on December 12.
Knighton started the Revolution’s final three games last season, while Bunbury, Farrell and Kobayashi have all played key roles with New England in recent years.
“We’ll work through those over the next few weeks and make decisions on those out-of-contract players, and which players we’ll extend offers to and which players we won’t,” said Burns. “Those things continue to evolve and we’ll work through each case individually and do what we think is best for the team.”
Gershon Koffie’s situation, meanwhile, is unique. The 26-year-old midfielder spent the 2017 season on loan from Swedish club Hammarby IF, and the Revs do not hold an option to extend the loan or acquire Koffie via permanent transfer. He’s set to return to Hammarby when the loan expires on December 31.
Burns did, however, indicate that the Revolution would be open to welcoming Koffie back should Hammarby be willing to discuss the possibility.
“If there’s an opportunity down the line to work something where there’s a chance to bring him back to New England, we would certainly be open to that possibility,” Burns said. “But right now, he’s owned by Hammarby.”
Monday’s moves represent the first significant step in shaping the roster for Friedel’s first year in charge, and now the task becomes adding vital pieces to the foundation that’s already in place. That work is already well underway, as dominos will continue to fall in the coming weeks and months.
“Obviously we’re assessing the entire roster and making decisions on the current roster, but the entire coaching staff is already looking forward to ways to strengthen the team from outside the current roster, which we will do,” Burns said. “We have to and will add players through the different mechanisms over the next couple months to make the team as strong as possible heading into next year.”