By Ryan Lanigan
The New England Revolution are coming off one of their worst seasons in club history, and are looking to get back to the top of the league.
After replacing longtime head coach Steve Nicol with former player Jay Heaps, the Revs, and GM Michael Burns have begun the process to enhance their unit, as well as numerous personnel decisions.
New England has the third overall pick in the MLS draft, which is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 12, and here’s a few names that the Revolution might consider targeting.
Andrew Wenger, Defender/Midfielder, Duke (22 games, 17 goals, 8 assists): Wenger would be an ideal pick for the Revs. Some say that New England is lacking a number one striker and needs more scoring. On the other side, there are those that notice the weak defensive line. A.J. Soares needs a strong partner in the middle and Wenger would be that fit. He has solid size, (6’0, 185) and good versatility. Also, he scored 17 goals this year in his first season playing forward. If Wenger falls to the Revs, they should take it to solidify their defensive line.
Billy Schuler, Forward/Midfielder, North Carolina (25 Games, 16 goals, 5 assists): Schuler is a fellow nominee with Wenger for the Hermann Trophy, soccer’s equivalent of the Heisman. Schuler is a great finisher and can do so with either foot. He has decent speed and has some a good soccer IQ. It might not count as an attribute, but Schuler has been known to be in the right place at the right time and can finish those opportunities. He could make an impact right away for the Revs with Milton Caraglio and Rajko Lekic out of the picture.
*AUTHORS NOTE: Schuler has decided to sign on with Sweden’s Hammarby.
Matt Hedges, Defender, North Carolina (26 games, 6 goals, 1 assist): If the Revs decide to go with a defender, which I think they will, they may choose to go with Schuler’s Tar Heels teammate, Matt Hedges, who is going to be considered the best defender in the entire draft. He will bring something to the back line that they didn’t see last season: size. He’s 6’4 and can help control and defend against set pieces. Some say he won’t go until the second round, but others think he’s a top 10 pick.
Enzo Martinez, Midfielder, North Carolina (26 Games, 9 goals, 11 assists): What was something that was lacking from the Revolution in 2011? A young playmaker. There was Benny Feilhaber and Shalrie Joseph in the middle, but there wasn’t much that came from the outside. The most intriguing part of Martinez’s game is his speed and ability to adapt. Two years ago, Martinez was the scoring star for the Tar Heels. This past year, he was able to change his style of play and become the playmaker for the College Cup Champions. All in all, he’d certainly be a great asset for New England.
Kelyn Rowe, Midfielder, UCLA (24 games, 6 goals, 10 assists): Kelyn Rowe is a very, very talented midfielder. Like I previously stated, the Revs need a playmaker coming out of the middle. Also, he’s fast, can use both feet, and has experience on the National Team, too. He’s a pure talent that the Revs could use in their lineup.
Casey Townsend, Forward, Maryland (21 games, 17 goals, 2 assists): The senior forward becomes more enticing now that Schuler has decided to go Sweden. He doesn’t have the best size, but he’s very quick and has been known to be able to create his own chances. He will come to the MLS ready to make an immediate impact on many teams. It might be a reach to take Townsend with the third overall pick, but with trade rumors flying around, it might be a good deal to trade the pick down to snag Townsend, and possibly a future draft pick, too.
Second Round Options
Calum Mallace, Midfielder, Marquette (16 games, 3 goals, 6 assists): Mallace could be a solid second round pick for the Revolution. He fits Heaps’ idea of “two-way players,” and could fill the Scottish void left by Nicol.
Other Potential Second Rounders:
*Andy Rose, Midfielder, UCLA
*Kevan George, Defense/Midfield, Central Florida
*Hunter Jumper, Defense, Virginia