Following up on the breakdown of the Revolution’s forwards and attacking midfielders on the Revolution’s 2021 roster, we turn our attention to the defensive and holding midfielders. There may be some lack of depth in terms of pure defensive midfielders, but some players can fill in the roles since they are box-to-box midfielders.
The Revolution return the majority of the defensive midfielders from the 2020 season. While they did lose Wilfried Zahibo in a trade to Houston, they received Tommy McNamara, who returns for the 2021 season. Lee Nguyen, a creative midfielder, was deployed as a holding midfielder at times and in the 2020 season and now plies his trade in Vietnam.
Returning from injury in 2021 in Luis Caicedo, a physical defensive midfielder, is almost a new signing for this team. With mid-season singing Matt Polster returning for an entire 2021 season and the rise of Revs II player Maciel in the pre-season, the Revolution looks primed to have a strong core protecting the backline.
2020 was a year to forget for Luis Caicedo. After struggling all pre-season with knee issues, his year ended with surgery to repair an injured meniscus. Wen last seen in a Revolution uniform, Caicedo was a huge factor in the recovery and protecting the back line. In the 2019 season Caicedo completed 91 tackles of which 63 were recovered by the Revolution. 53 of his tackles were in the defensive third. He was also a mainstay in the 2019 line-up with 31 appearances and 27 starts.
The 2021 season will be one of patience for Caicedo. While he is starting to get back into game shape, I hope that the Revolution does not rush it. With the depth in the midfield, he has time to properly recover and rediscover his form. Once fully match fit, he can be an impact off the bench or from the start to give the offense more freedom.
Having Revolution II could be a key to the 2021 season for Caicedo. With the ability to get him extra game time with that side, Caicedo should be able to return to the line-up for the Revolution sooner than expected. I do not expect much offensively from Luis; I hope that once fully match fit he can provide solid protection and cavalier work defensively.
Scott Caldwell had his standard yeoman’s effort in the 2020 season. In another reliable season from the Revolution’s second-ever homegrown player, Caldwell appeared in 18 of the team’s regular-season games. Starting twelve games for the Revolution, the majority of which was the end-of-season run-in, Caldwell impressed with his improved passing. With an 87.5 passing completion percentage, which topped the team, his ability to control the game and alleviate pressure was appreciated.
2021 will be a standard year for Scott Caldwell. While he has not been seen as much in pre-season, Caldwell is a trusted game manager. His passing completion percentage from the previous season shows that he can continue to control the midfield’s tempo. If he continues to improve his passing, he can evolve into an even more vital piece for the Revolution.
Due to more competition in 2021, starts may not be as frequent, but I expect Caldwell to get solid playing time. Again the schedule dictates needing a deeper roster, and Caldwell checks boxes in terms of what will be required. While I do not expect many goals or assists from Caldwell, his presence on the pitch is usually a calming one. Caldwell’s presence in the team is essential. Reports are that Caldwell is a crucial piece in the locker room, helping new players settle, helping young players adjust to the first team, and just overall strength.
After moving to Revolution II for the 2020 season from Botafogo, Maciel became a key piece for the inaugural season. Starting all sixteen games of the season for the season, he was an anchor for the midfield. Completing the most passes on the team in the 2020 season, Maciel helped spring attacks and kept the tempo for Revolution II. His performances led to a first-team contract for the 2021 season.
The 21-year-old midfielder could be the darkhorse for newcomer of the season, at least for the Revolution. While 2021 should be a development season, Maciel has impressed throughout pre-season training and performances, starting in multiple games, including the final match against LAFC. He should look to continue his strong development this coming season and continue to grow in passing and hopefully offensively for the Revolution.
When he was initially signed for the 2021 I expected him to be a depth piece spending more time with the Revolution II squad than the first team. After watching his performances against LA Galaxy and hearing how impressive he has been to his teammates, that has changed. Due to these performances, I expect him to challenge for a starting spot week in and week out, especially with the shortened schedule. I am also trying to temper my expectations as he is stepping up a level in competition, but it would be amazing to see him get a goal or two.
A mid-season acquisition from the Houston Dynamo, Tommy McNamara moved to the Revolution and instantly became an essential piece for Bruce Arena. After playing 180 minutes in four games and two starts for the Dynamo, he saw 859 minutes in eleven starts and fourteen games with the Revolution. While he only contributed one assist, McNamara saw his highest passing completion percentage of 82.7 percent. He brought a work rate that allowed him to float and be a box-to-box midfielder for the Revolution and a creative force behind Bou and Buksa.
For McNamara, 2021 will be another season being a dependable midfield presence. While his hair may have changed, his effort and tenacity have not. Last season with the Revolution, McNamara held onto possession 90% of the time a pass went into him. This dependability gives him allows him to be a game manager in late-game situations. It is a quality I would expect to thrive with this team in the 2021 season. He has added a pre-season goal, and if he can become a dependable shot on target producer, it will help everyone around him.
McNamara is going to get minutes this season. Especially with the compact schedule, he will get some starts and impact the Revolution. With his flexibility to play both as a box-to/box holding midfield and a creative force on the wing or through the middle, McNamara gives good depth across the entire midfield. While never a prolific goalscorer, I expect two to five goals from him this season and five to eight assists.
A mid-season acquisition from Rangers in Scotland, Polster, solidified the Revolution midfield in the second half of the 2020 season. Making an instant impression from his first appearance, Polster added some sorely missed steal to the midfield. While his tackling numbers are not the highest, he successfully turned possession over 32.6 percent of he pressures. His passing was also impressive, completing 86.8 percent of his passes, the majority of those between 15 and 30 yards. He did miss some time due to a concussion after a horrifying collision, but thankfully, he recovered.
2021 will be an exciting year for Polster. With the return of Caicedo and Maciel’s emergence, there is now more competition for the defensive midfielder roles. He seems to have added to his repertoire in the offseason, as seen by his goal against LAFC. If he can provide a consistent threat from outside the box, it gives more flexibility to the forwards and more for the opposition to think about.
I have high expectations for Polster in the 2021 season. Polster brought outstanding energy to the team and locker room last season and a stalwart on the pitch. I expect to see him starting the majority of the Revolution’s game and helping to develop Maciel. With his newfound left-footed ability, I hope to see two to four goals from Polster and five to six assists. Plus, I have a signed jersey from the CHANGE auction hanging in my place, so there is some invested in him doing well for the team.