FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Late last week the New England Revolution announced that the club had exercised permanent transfer options on Cristian Penilla and Luis Caicedo, bringing back a pair of key pieces for the 2019 season.
On Monday morning the Revs took another major step in shaping their roster for next year, announcing that 15 players – including Penilla and Caicedo – have had their contract options exercised for the 2019 campaign. That group also features the Homegrown trio of Scott Caldwell, Diego Fagundez and Zach Herivaux, a pair of former top three SuperDraft picks in Andrew Farrell and Kelyn Rowe, 11-goal scorer Teal Bunbury, as well as all three goalkeepers: Matt Turner, Brad Knighton, and Cody Cropper.
Along with the four players already under contract for next season – Isaac Angking, Michael Mancienne, Gabriel Somi, and Wilfried Zahibo – the Revolution’s roster now stands at 19 players as they begin a two-week postseason training period.
That leaves the Revs with a solid foundation to build on moving forward, but also the flexibility – both in terms of roster spots and budget space – to make significant additions as they set their sights on a return to the postseason for the first time since 2015.
“You want to be able to provide your club, and your coaches, and the organization flexibility,” said General Manager Michael Burns, noting that the Revs currently have nine open roster spots. “We’ve got international roster flexibility to where we have three international roster spots open. We have international roster spots, we have roster flexibility, but we also have budget flexibility.
“We do have the ability with General Allocation Money and Targeted Allocation Money and salary cap, we have the ability to go out and add some pieces here, which we will do through all the mechanisms available to us.”
New England have that flexibility because they’ve parted ways with several players, declining contract options on Claude Dielna, Guillermo Hauche, Femi Hollinger-Janzen, Cristhian Machado, Nico Samayoa and Mark Segbers.
While the other five combined to make just eight appearances in 2018, Dielna’s departure is noteworthy because of his status as a Designated Player. The veteran defender was handed the captain’s armband to start the season and featured in 17 of the first 21 games.
Dielna soon fell out of favor, however, as head coach Brad Friedel used a combination of Mancienne, Antonio Delamea and Jalil Anibaba in central defense, while rookie Brandon Bye settled into the left back role late in the season.
“Just looking at the second half of the year, he didn’t factor into matches. He didn’t play,” Burns said. “He wants to play. Every player wants to play. It became apparent, I think on both sides.
“It’s the right decision for us, but it’s also the right decision for him. We wish him well going forward and he’ll get on with another club and continue his career. We just needed to make that change.”
While those six players had their 2019 options declined, a pair of longtime Revolution members – Juan Agudelo and Chris Tierney – will be out of contract as their current deals are set to expire. Agudelo isn’t old enough to qualify for free agency, but Tierney has the option to hit the open market.
Tierney, of course, is a Boston native who has spent the entirety of his 11-year career with the Revolution, and he’s currently rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered back in late May.
“In Chris’ case, he’s been a very long-serving member of this organization and this team, and we’ll have discussions with him,” Burns said. “He’s free agent eligible, and he’s earned that. We’ll have conversations with Chris and see what here’s at, what his objectives and goals are.”
Burns added that the Revolution “will have a decision to make” with regards to Agudelo and whether or not to extend him a bona fide offer, and that’s something the club will do “as the time is right.”
What’s clear regardless of those decisions is that there will be changes in New England come 2019, and Friedel has consistently hinted at significant additions to the squad in the coming weeks and months. There are several mechanisms to make those additions – free agency, the Re-Entry Process, etc. – but with regards to the international market, wheels are already firmly in motion.
“The process for us to add players in the winter started eight, nine months ago,” said Burns, noting the addition of Remi Roy as Director of Scouting and Player Personnel as key in that process. “We’ve had discussions internally from January through the summer about this window, and about the next window in the summer.
“That doesn’t mean that it’s a simple task to sign a player, but we’re able to have targets now for different windows moving forward. That’s given us more options available to us than what we’ve had in the past, and that’s been helpful.”