Bruce Arena did not hold back in his praise for Henry Kessler, the New England Revolution’s top pick in Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft, as he discussed his club’s approach to the event and provided an update on the Revs’ offseason as a whole.
“[Kessler] was absolutely our first choice of player to have. If [we] picked No. 1, we would've picked him. We were excited,” said Arena after New England took the University of Virginia product at No. 6. “We were a little concerned after the first two picks. He could've gone at 3, 4, or 5. We were trying to move up in the draft as well, but that didn't happen. We were very fortunate he was available at No. 6 and we jumped on it immediately.”
A lanky, cerebral left-footed center back, Kessler could benefit from the club’s new USL League One team, which launches at Gillette Stadium this year.
“He's a player that we think has great potential,” said Arena, who first rose to prominence as the architect of Virginia’s NCAA soccer dynasty three decades ago. “He has good size for a defender, is smart, good communicator on the field, good passer of the ball, knows how to step into the midfield and win tackles. We think he's a player with a lot of potential.
“We have a wonderful situation now with our first team and our second team. We believe that the players that we took today in the draft will have an opportunity to play an awful lot this next year, whether it's with the first team or the second team.”
Kessler is also a member of the 2020 Generation adidas class, so his salary won’t be charged against the Revs’ annual salary budget. Arena suggested that the club’s offseason roster upgrades are just about complete.
“We're pretty well set,” he said. “There's always going to be a player or two along the way that you need to consider. We're not shutting the door on anything, but we are very close to having a roster that will be around on opening day. Obviously, there's always opportunities to make some changes.”
The veteran coach and GM also spoke favorably of the new SuperDraft format in which the physical event has been replaced by a live broadcast stream that allows clubs’ staffers to stay close to home.
“I think it's a good way to do this. I don't think we need to travel to conventions and do our draft,” said Arena. “I know that's the American way and all, but I think this was well-handled by the league, very efficient. I think it's much more comfortable for the clubs to work out of their home venues and be organized for the draft.”