Brad Friedel - New England Revolution - speaks at his introductory press conference
USA Today Sports

Friedel: Recent signings intended to make Revolution faster, more athletic

PHILADELPHIA – Instead of a drastic overhaul, the New England Revolution have opted for incremental change ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

That comes after two consecutive seasons of missing the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, a skid that helped usher in the Brad Friedel era. The Revs maintain that their new additions are vital pieces, however.

That’s the sentiment general manager Mike Burns expressed, telling MLSsoccer.com after the MLS SuperDraft that holding midfielder Wilfried Zahibo checks off one area of need.

“The addition of Zahibo fills a real big need and a void there as a true No. 6,” Burns said. “Without getting into too many specifics … since that’s an area we are still looking at as well, Zahibo fills a big hole for us. We feel really good about the signing.”

Prior to inking Zahibo, the Revs’ only returning midfielders with deep-lying experience were Homegrown Players Scott Caldwell and Zachary Herivaux. Gershon Koffie, Xavier Kouassi and Daigo Kobayashi, important parts of Jay Heaps’ matchday rosters in 2017, were not retained for the upcoming season.

That void helps explain why Friedel, ahead of his first year as a head coach at the professional level, is excited by what Zahibo could bring. The Frenchman most recently played for Gimnàstic de Tarragona of the Spanish second division.

“He can cover a lot of ground and for a holding midfielder is very good on the ball, and just 24 years of age,” Friedel said. “Again, when we’re profiling the positions of need, he ticked a lot of the boxes as someone who’s a hardworking player. He’s an important figure for us.”

The Revs’ other major offseason signing is Gabriel Somi, a Swedish-Syrian left back who was signed for free from Östersunds FK of the Swedish top flight.

Last year, veteran left back Chris Tierney started 20 matches, his lowest total since 2009, as he fought off persistent injuries. Heaps often started Kelyn Rowe, a midfielder by trade, at left back, and Donnie Smith, now with the USL’s Charlotte Independence, offered another reserve option.

The Revs are optimistic that they’ve added players with similar traits in Mark Segbers and Brandon Bye, two right-sided players they chose in the SuperDraft’s first round.

“At certain positions we want to profile them with athletic qualities, and that’s a key component to it,” Friedel said. “Bringing in Gabriel and the two draft picks has added a lot of pace and a lot of athleticism, not to mention they’re all very good with the ball.”

Added Burns: “Somi has the ability to play in a 4-4-2, in a 3-5-2, he can play left back, he can play wing back. He’s very very comfortable going forward and has good quickness and speed. His adjustment will be culturally and societally, while the players we drafted don’t quite have the professional experience.”

The Revs, aren’t done making signings, Burns assured. The club has only 21 of a possible 30 players rostered ahead of preseason, and added another piece on Tuesday with the loan acquisition of Ecuadorian attacker Cristian Penilla.

“We’re still looking to add, and even though our preseason is starting, our roster is not complete,” Burns said. “We will continue to add players between now and the start of our first regular season game. We still have some targets out there.”