Team huddle (2020, Colonial)
Jay LaPrete

Breaking down the Revolution roster by position as preseason preparations begin

Preseason is underway in Foxborough as players began reporting on a voluntary basis earlier this week, and the New England Revolution are currently preparing for the 2021 season with 23 players officially signed to the roster. This does not include SuperDraft picks Edward Kizza and Francois Dulysse, who are both fighting to earn a contract this preseason.

As preparations get well and truly underway let’s take a look at the current roster, breaking down the options at each position while keeping in mind that sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena has stated that the Revs are not yet done building their 2021 squad.

Also note that players in each position are listed in alphabetical order.

Earl Edwards Jr., Brad Knighton, Matt Turner

Matt Turner finished second in last year’s Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year voting before making his first USMNT appearance a memorable one, saving a penalty and keeping a clean sheet in a 7-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago in late January. He set a career high with six shutouts last season despite the shortened campaign, and he’s widely regarded as one of the top goalkeepers in MLS.

Brad Knighton returns for an 11th season in New England – his 15th as a pro – and offers a reliable veteran presence between the pipes, while Earl Edwards Jr. arrived this offseason to provide additional cover and competition after six seasons with Orlando City SC and D.C. United.

A.J. DeLaGarza, Andrew Farrell, Henry Kessler, Collin Verfurth

Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler formed a reliable center back partnership last season, starting 22 games alongside each other through the regular season and playoffs. Kessler, selected sixth overall in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, capped a strong rookie season with his first-ever call-up to the U.S. Men’s Under-23 National Team and will be in contention for a spot on the Olympic Qualifying squad in March, while Farrell has been an everyday starter in each of his eight seasons in New England.

Antonio Delamea and Michael Mancienne provided central defensive cover last season but both have since departed, Delamea returning to NK Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia and Mancienne signing with Burton Albion in England. Natural center back Collin Verfurth returns having gained valuable experience with Revolution II last year, while new arrival A.J. DeLaGarza also has significant experience in central defense, although he has played mostly as an outside back in recent years.

Brandon Bye, A.J. DeLaGarza, DeJuan Jones, Christian Mafla

Alex Büttner started 15 games at left back last season but parted ways with the Revs in January, while veteran Seth Sinovic will also not return for the 2021 campaign. That paves the way for Christian Mafla to play a significant role as he arrives in MLS after a decade of professional experience in South America, most recently as the starting left back for Colombian powerhouse Atlético Nacional.

Although not naturally left footed, DeJuan Jones split time with Büttner at left back last season, starting 12 games, including the Revs’ entire playoff run to the Eastern Conference Final. Brandon Bye has also seen significant time at left back, while A.J. DeLaGarza can play across the backline.

Tajon Buchanan, Brandon Bye, A.J. DeLaGarza, DeJuan Jones, Matt Polster

One of the biggest questions to be answered this preseason is where Bruce Arena and his staff want to utilize Tajon Buchanan, who had never started at right back prior to featuring in that spot throughout last year’s playoff run to the Eastern Conference Final. Buchanan played a huge role, as well, scoring in New England’s win over Philadelphia and drawing a penalty in the victory over Orlando.

Brandon Bye and DeJuan Jones split time at right back throughout the 2020 regular season, while Matt Polster also occasionally shifted into that role late in games. As noted, A.J. DeLaGarza can play across the backline, and has seen the majority of his minutes at right back in recent years.

Andrew Farrell also has significant experience at right back having featured there heavily with the Revs, but he hasn’t started a game there since early 2019.

Luis Caicedo, Scott Caldwell, Wilfrid Kaptoum, Tommy McNamara, Matt Polster

New England’s central midfield setup will depend on which formation they’re utilizing, of course, but assuming it looks something like last year’s 4-2-3-1, this could be the Revolution’s deepest position heading into preseason with five players battling for two starting spots.

Returning from the 2020 squad are Scott Caldwell (18 starts), Tommy McNamara (12 starts), and Matt Polster (12 starts), and that trio combined to eat up all the starting central midfield minutes in last year’s postseason, with Caldwell and Polster getting the nod in the Eastern Conference Final.

Two significant pieces are joining the mix, however, as Luis Caicedo (56 starts in 2018 and 2019) returns after missing the entire 2020 campaign through injury, and 24-year-old Wilfrid Kaptoum arrives as a noteworthy signing after rising through Barcelona’s Academy to make his breakthrough in La Liga.

Emmanuel Boateng, Teal Bunbury, Justin Rennicks, Damian Rivera

Teal Bunbury made 13 starts on the left wing in 2020, including the final two games of the regular season and the Revolution’s four-game playoff run. Bunbury found success regardless of where he lined up last year, leading the Revs with eight goals to mark the third-highest single-season total of his career.

Bunbury will have a significant challenge for minutes from Emmanuel Boateng, who arrives after winning MLS Cup 2020 with Columbus Crew SC, including an appearance in the Eastern Conference Final victory over the Revolution. Boateng also spent the 2016 season playing under Bruce Arena with the LA Galaxy, so he’ll be quite familiar with his new boss.

A pair of Academy grads are also capable of playing on the wings as both Justin Rennicks and Damian Rivera will be looking to break through with the first team after spending the majority of the 2020 campaign developing with Revolution II.

Emmanuel Boateng, Gustavo Bou, Tajon Buchanan, Teal Bunbury, Carles Gil, Justin Rennicks, Damian Rivera

This was Carles Gil’s spot upon his return from injury late last season as he settled into a role on the right side, which provided him the freedom to roam and cut inside onto his favored left foot with Tajon Buchanan overlapping from the right back position. Gil thrived in this role throughout the playoffs, notching two goals and three assists in just four appearances.

Gustavo Bou has also seen time out on the right side – playing with a freedom similar to Gil – while Emmanuel Boateng, Tajon Buchanan, Teal Bunbury, Justin Rennicks, and Damian Rivera give the Revolution several different options at that spot, all bringing something a little different to the position.

Gustavo Bou, Adam Buksa, Teal Bunbury, Carles Gil, Justin Rennicks

Should the Revs deploy a similar 4-2-3-1 setup in 2021 this position can be separated into two uniquely different roles – the No. 9, and the second forward playing in behind (sometimes more of a central attacking midfielder depending on who is playing the position).

Last year Adam Buksa was the clear top choice in that No. 9 spot, appearing in all 27 games through the regular season and playoffs while starting 20 times, scoring seven goals and adding a pair of assists. Gustavo Bou started four games in that role, while Teal Bunbury started two, although both saw the majority of their minutes in different spots in 2020.

Bou settled into that second forward role late in the season – playing in behind Buksa throughout the Revolution’s playoff run – and he thrived with three goals and one assist in the postseason. Carles Gil has also seen significant time in that role, although Gil and Bou often have the freedom to interchange regardless of their starting positions.