The New England Revolution announced Friday morning the addition of versatile defender Michael Mancienne. The former England youth international doesn’t have the name recognition (anymore) of other signings, but he could be one of the best additions of the Secondary Transfer Window.
Mancienne can play multiple positions but should play mostly center back for the Revs. Mancienne fills two critical needs for the team, and if he can can help them improve in those areas, the Revs could clamp down on an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
New head coach Brad Friedel has built the Revs into an effective high pressing team in 2018. The press -- and the resulting transitions -- have provided the framework for both the defensive and attacking strategies for the team. The Revs’ press has been so good that it hasn’t just put them above the playoff line, it got Columbus Crew SC to break their style and play long balls from the back, something not even the New York Red Bulls’ pressure could force.
How Brad Friedel's mentality has transformed the New England Revolution
But the press has been pretty much the Revolution’s only weapon. Once teams break the initial pressure, the Revs have looked out of sorts.
It’s a natural consequence, of course. If you push numbers forward to press, you will be left exposed if it fails. It’s difficult to find a defender who possesses the tactical ability and athleticism to press in addition to the old-school defending techniques required to defend in the box. But New England have needed to find someone who can do it. Since winning five of their first 10 games, they’ve only won three of their last 13.
Fortunately for Friedel, Mancienne might be one of those players. Mancienne has the pace to cover the necessary ground in a press and also reads the game well. His skill set should suit the way Friedel wants to play.
On the ball, too, Mancienne should provide a new option. The Revs are dead last in the league in passes completed in their own half of the field. If they don’t win the ball in a good spot, they haven’t shown much ability to create a chance. Mancienne is a controlled and confident passer from the back.
How is it that Mancienne has all of these rare skills and he was only playing in the English Championship last year, you might ask. That’s a fair question. Other recent signings from the Championship, namely the Colorado Rapids’ Tommy Smith and Joe Mason, haven’t been great in 2018.
Mancienne’s career has had ups and downs. He started at Chelsea, then spent a couple years in the Championship, then back to the Premier League and the Bundesliga. At points during his stint at Hamburg, English fans were hoping he would get called in to play center back for the English national team. He’s shown excellent flashes followed by periods of inconsistency.
It’s a risk for the Revs, just as any new signing is. But the skill set matches the Revs’ biggest needs. I suspect it’s a signing that signifies that Friedel wants to double down on the pressing scheme, but do it better. Or, at least do it the same without being so weak in other areas. I’d be surprised if Mancienne doesn’t get inserted into a starting spot almost immediately, leaving Jalil Anibaba and Antonio Mlinar Delamea fighting for the other one.
If Mancienne brings his best, it should fix the Revs’ main ailments and give them an upper hand in the race for one of the (likely two) available playoff spots in the East.