A year after setting the Major League Soccer record for most points in a regular season, the Revolution sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with 12 games remaining.
Bruce Arena, having already seen several of his stars leave for Europe in 2021, continued to reshape his roster last week. With the MLS secondary transfer deadline on Thursday, New England has been working to bring in players and ship several players.
After bringing in two MLS veterans — forward Jozy Altidore and midfielder Sebastian Lletget — to provide experience, quality and depth, Arena moved quickly to release both until the end of 2022.
Altidore, 32, was sent out on loan to Mexico’s Pueblas after scoring just one goal in 21 appearances for the Revolution in 2022.
Lletget, 29, was traded to FC Dallas for general distribution money. The former LA Galaxy playmaker has managed to have a bigger impact on the pitch than Altidore, scoring two goals and adding five assists in 19 appearances. However, with the addition of striker Giacomo Vrioni, it is possible that Lletget’s minutes would be reduced.
“Jozy wanted to be somewhere where he has the opportunity to play more. And I think the move with Sebastian was both personal and football, and I think going to a new environment will help him,” Arena said. “So we certainly wish him the best.”
Altidore will return to the New England roster in 2023 when his loan to Pueblas expires. Lletget, however, ended his term in the Revolution after only a few months. Arena, for his part, added that he thinks that Lletget’s move will ultimately be of mutual benefit.
“He was one of the more productive players we had, but I think the move was good for him personally,” Arena told reporters Thursday. “I think it’s going to help us both in the end, so I think the world of Sebastian. I hate to see him go, but I think it’s a good opportunity for him.”
New England has also been busy adding new players to fill the void. Along with in-season signings like winger Dylan Borrero, goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic and forward Giacomo Vrioni, the Revolution recently acquired defender Christian Makoun from Charlotte FC and winger Ismael Tajouri-Shradi from LAFC (both for general money). The team also added backup goalkeeper Clement Diop in a deal with Inter Miami.
“He’s a good young defender, 22 years old, left-footed, good physicality, experienced at international level with Venezuela,” Arena said when asked about Makoun. “We think he is a player who can help our team.”
Tajouri-Shradi, 28, was born in Switzerland and represents Libya at international level. He has two goals in six appearances in 2022, all for Los Angeles. He has a total of 28 goals in 90 career MLS appearances (most of which came between 2018 and 2021 for New York City FC).
And while the transfer window is closed to international signings, New England could theoretically still sign free agents or make trades within MLS (and including domestic players).
All in all, it’s clear that Arena recognized that several of his veteran signings this offseason weren’t going well. Instead of doubling down on players who didn’t quite click, he went the other way and tried to reset his roster.
Fortunately, the younger reinforcements in 2022 have largely proved successful so far. Borrero and Petrovic have looked particularly good at times (including the young goalkeeper’s penalty save against Italy international Lorenzo Insigne in a 0-0 draw with Toronto last week).
“Sometimes it’s hard to see, because this league is a different league. Sometimes we need a few months to adapt here, but they have shown that they are very good players,” said Revolution captain Carles Gil on Thursday. “Đorđe is an incredible goalkeeper. One of the best in the league for sure.
“And Dylan too, he’s very young but he’s got amazing skills,” added Gil. He’s injured now, but I’m sure he’ll help us when he comes back. We are very happy for them and for them here.”
For the Revolution to return to a playoff spot, the team will need its young contingent to continue to advance earlier than expected. And Vrioni will be counted on for goals.
But after opening the year with a slew of veteran signings, Arena has clearly changed direction. Whether the reset will be enough to revive the team’s postseason chances remains to be seen.
New England plays Orlando City on Saturday at 7:30 p.m
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