FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – As the New England Revolution prepare for the 2021 campaign, sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena and the rest of his staff have been busy, adding five players to their roster in the first five weeks of the offseason. It's likely they're not done, either, as they made a pair of SuperDraft selections on Thursday while Arena hinted at another potential signing on the way.
“We think that (Wilfrid) Kaptoum and (Christian) Mafla are going to be really good additions to our roster,” said Arena. “We will probably also sign another player before we start the regular season. And we have a complement of domestic players in (A.J.) DeLaGarza, (Emmanuel) Boateng, and (Earl) Edwards (Jr.) that we have added to our roster.”
In particular, the Revolution have strategically bolstered the left back position by signing Mafla.
“We did a lot of work in seeing Mafla,” said Arena. “Mafla was highly regarded in Colombia. The uniqueness of 2020 did not permit us to actually go and actually see the players in person, but we did a lot of work with him on film and did a lot of background on him and spoke to coaches in Colombia that we know, whose opinions mean something. We feel like we got a good one in Mafla.”
Mafla owns almost 200 career appearances across 10 seasons in South America, including five in Colombia’s top division. The 28-year-old featured in 78 games for Atlético Nacional from 2017-20, including 62 in Primera A, and helped claim their 2018 Copa Colombia trophy.
Mafla’s addition was timely for the Revs, as the team and former left back Alex Büttner mutually agreed to part ways on January 20.
“In the case of Alex Büttner, he’s going to be a father for the first time this year and moving back closer to home was to his advantage, so we were able to reach an agreement where he would go back to Europe, and we did that,” said Arena.
The club welcomes Mafla, who will be expected to compete for the starting left back position.
“Christian Mafla is a left-sided defender who offers both experience and skill in his position, making him a very good addition to our backline,” said Arena. “Christian is a strong one-on-one defender, a talented passer, and is comfortable moving into the attack. We are delighted to welcome him to the Revolution.”
The technical staff brought in Mafla, along with their four other additional signings, under unique conditions. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, scouting shifted to a completely virtual format, whereas under normal circumstances, the staff would scout the players in person.
“It was a difficult year in that sense,” said Arena. “I give a lot of credit to our staff. [Director of Scouting and Player Personnel] Remi Roy heads up a lot of that scouting. He did a lot of work on film. He was joined by [Player Recruitment Manager] Chris Tierney and [Technical Director] Curt Onalfo and our coaching staff. A lot of the work during the year was done obviously with video. We have a lot of scouting services and in this day and age, you can see players from all over the world and get their most recent games with no problem.
“We also obviously used people in those geographical areas whose opinions we respect. And then obviously just calling players and talking to them, and seeing what the right fits were. That’s the way we did it this year. In a typical year, we would go out and see those players in person on one, two, three occasions. We missed that this year, but I think and I am hopeful that we did a good job.”