Every show I've gone on or Q&A I've held this offseason has featured at least a couple of minutes trying to answer these questions: What's up with Jermaine Jones, and how much will his absence effect the New England Revolution?
I still don't know how to answer the first part of it. For the second part... I'm now leaning in the "not as much as you think" camp. Jones is great -- on his day he's the best box-to-box midfielder in the league, especially because Jay Heaps has been smart enough to cast Scott Caldwell in a purely support role. But slowly and methodically Gershon Koffie has been climbing the ranks on that same list, and to be 100 percent honest even before Thursday's trade I had him on the short list of guys I expect to have breakout seasons in 2016.
Koffie is, like Jones and Michael Bradley and not many others in MLS, a box-to-box central midfielder possessed of both supreme athleticism and underappreciated skill.
That's a 50-yard one-time through ball, and while it's not a regular feature of his game it's not an outlier. Koffie attempts and completes a Jones-esque number of long balls, and as he's gained more experience he's gained a better understanding of how and when to unleash one of those field-switching scorchers.
It's actually the other side of the ball where Koffie initially struggled, since -- again like Jones -- he was often guilty of falling prey to his own enthusiasm and running himself out of plays. For several years he simply resisted positional roles, and to an extent still does (which is why he's more box-to-box midfielder than pure d-mid).
Because of Caldwell that's not going to be an issue in New England. Caldwell is a true d-mid in the sense that his first instincts are always to 1) protect the shape of his team, which means he bends his movement to support that of his more aggressive partner, and 2) stay connected. He is, by his very nature, John Paul Jones, and that lets the guys around him be Led Zeppelin.
This analysis literally begs the question, then: If Koffie is such a perfect fit for the Revs, why were they able to acquire him on the relative cheap? And the answer is right there in the Vancouver press release:
"As part of the trade, Whitecaps FC will receive a percentage of any future transfer fees obtained by New England."
Vancouver have proved adept at this game, having learned their lesson from the Camillo Sanvezzo incident a couple of years back. Koffie is nearing the end of his contract and perhaps has dreams of Europe. Best to move him along now while getting something in return (general allocation money and targeted allocation money), and a cut of the pie should New England eventually end up selling him. The alternative is holding onto him too long and risking losing him for nothing.
A bonus here from Vancouver's point of view is that central midfield is a spot they have well covered thanks to the presence of Homegrowns Russell Teibert, Ben McKendry and maybe even Kianz Froese, as well as Honduran youth international Deybi Flores. So they were prepared to make this move.
And New England were prepared to benefit. They've scrambled well in the aftermath of Xavier Kouassi's unfortunate injury, and -- with or without Jones -- they are set to move full speed into the 2016 season.