There seems to be depth in the midfield for the Revolution going into 2020. But breaking down the positional sense, some concerns show up in the defensive midfielder role. Some role adjustment, similar to what was seen at times with Juan Agudelo last year, may happen.
Issac Anking – Anking is a curious case of unfortunate circumstances over the past two seasons. Signed to a homegrown contract going into the 2018 season, Anking is a highly touted midfield prospect for the Revolution. 2018 got off to a rough start when a non-soccer injury (rumor is that he swallowed a toothpick and had complications). He did end up making three appearances all as a substitute throughout the year. 2019 had a similar disappointment with the youngster needing knee surgery in late March. He never saw the field for the Revolution in 2019, making three appearances in five games on loan with Charlotte in the USL, as well as being on the bench of a game with Hartford Athletic. Honestly, I believe he needs to have an impressive pre-season, or I would expect his minutes to come from Revs II as he still needs some development.
Luis Caicedo – Caicedo followed up his successful 2018 campaign with the Revolution with another solid year as a defensive midfielder for the Revolution. 2019 saw him start 27 games and feature in 31 games. His shooting leaves something to be desired, 22 shots only two on target in 2019. Caicedo’s work rate and engine were evident throughout his time on the field. He may be the purest defensive midfielder on the roster currently. In a position that has some lacking depth, he will most likely get a significant amount of playing time — guessing starting 11 opening day in Montreal.
Scott Caldwell – Second ever homegrown player in Revolution history, continued to be a key piece not only on but off the field in 2019. While only starting 12 games and playing in a total of 20, he still was always a solid defensive midfielder for the club. He is one of the three true defensive midfielders on the roster walking into pre-season this year, so expecting to see him on the field more often. He is a workhorse in the midfield, with a fiery passion for the club. Caldwell did wear the captains’ armband at the start of last season. He is thus showing his importance to the club on and off the pitch. While people do not talk too much about having locker room guys, that is also what Caldwell is for this club. I expect to see him have a similar role, perhaps more this season.
Diego Fagundez – Entering his 10th season as a member of the Revolution, the team’s first-ever homegrown signing is only 24 and hoping to rediscover his form of years past. 2019 saw Fagundez featuring in 25 games, starting 13 of them and contributing with two goals and three assists. In comparison to 2018, he featured in 33 games, starting 30 of them and added nine goals and ten assists. He did end up functioning at times in more of a defensive holding role, which did provide fewer opportunities for shots, as he shot total dropped from 68 in 2018 to 22 in 2019, and his hots on goal dropped from 30 to 8. I still have a belief that he can find that form again or develop into a holding defensive midfield presence cause he does have good vision and link-up play — thoughts for 2020 mostly bench role player or may be developed into trade bait.
Nicolas Firmino – Firmino was signed as a homegrown prospect that featured in the 18 once in 2019. Mainly still played with the academy side. Most of his minutes on the field at Gillette came in the international friendly against Chelsea, where he played 60 minutes in the loss but showed well. There is talent in front of him, so hopefully, the training not only helps him learn but develops into a future regular in the 1st team. I would hope to see him get at least cup minutes with the MLS side this year but most likely expecting him to get most of his minutes with Revs II.
Carles Gil – MLS Newcomer of the Year for 2019, Carles Gil, made an enormous impact on the Revolution in the 2019 season. The premier acquisition in the winter window, there were massive expectations on his shoulders, and he lived up to the hype. Started and played in all 34 games for the Revolution in 2019, leading them in goals with ten and also contributed 14 assists. Named club captain for the last 23 matches of the regular season, he led the team with a fiery passion on the pitch. While the league eventually focused the majority of their game plan to stop Gil, he still found a way to create for his teammates. I think with the additions this season, and the continued development of the relationship and other impressive season is on the horizon for Gil. Captains Armband and one of the few untouchable people in the starting lineup from last year to this coming season.
Wilfried Zahibo – In his two seasons with the Revolution, Zahibo has become a critical defensive midfielder. Last year he featured in 24 games with 18 starts chipping in one goal and one assist. He continues to confuse me, though. Sometimes his passes are spot on with the tougher diagonals, and then a simple pass will go astray. If he can find that consistency of his passing, he could become a vital cog in this side. I think 2020 is a crucial season for him in terms of longevity with the club. A marked improvement in 2020, and he could become an essential piece as he is coming into his prime. Poor season and he may not be back. I think he will share minutes with Caicedo and Caldwell in the defensive holding position.
Damian Rivera – the newest homegrown signing for the Revolution, having spent the last three years in the development academy. He had a lot of good qualities, but like Firmino, I think he needs to learn from those around him. Will get most of his minutes with Revs II.
Kelyn Rowe – 2019 was almost a lost year for Rowe. He split his time between Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake, and was loaned out to Swope Park Rangers and the Real Monarchs in the USL. Rowe is coming back to the team he spent the majority of his career with and will be looking to rediscover his 2017 form again. I will say I was a bit curious about the signing when it first happened mainly because of struggling to find where he fits in the system. The more I thought about it, though, Arena used him to significant effect out wide during his time with the national team in so it gives him some fluidity in this side. He also had the passing range and engine to fit into the holding midfield role. I expect him to find a substantial amount of playing time either from the start in 2020 or as a critical substitute.