BOSTON, Mass. — New England Revolution head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena believes his roster is well on its way for the upcoming season and is especially pleased with the club’s haul from Thursday’s opening two rounds of the 2020 MLS Superdraft.
The Revolution selected Henry Kessler, a 6-foot-4 central defender out of the University of Virginia, with the sixth overall pick. The club then snagged defender Simon Lekressner out of University of California-Berkeley (30th overall) and goalkeeper Keegan Meyer out of High Point (43rd overall) in the second round. New England also traded its natural first-round pick (13th overall) to Nashville SC for $50,000 in General Allocation Money and a conditional $50,000 in General Allocation Money.
“We’re pretty well set,” Arena said during a conference call after the draft. “There’s always a player or two along the way you need to consider, but we’re not shutting the door on anything. We’re very close to having a roster that will be around on opening day, though there are always opportunities to make changes.”
New England starts preseason Jan. 18 and opens the 2020 season Feb. 29 with a visit to the Montreal Impact.
Arena said all three rookies will be part of preseason camp and they will vie for inclusion on the first team, though the club’s newly-launched USL League One affiliate, Revolution II, will also be an option to get the players competitive minutes.
Kessler, a three-year starter at Virginia — where Arena served as head coach from 1978-95 — is a former New York Red Bulls Academy product who entered Thursday’s draft as the Revolution’s first choice. As a Generation Adidas player, Kessler has already signed a contract with Major League Soccer, meaning he will be automatically added to the Revolution’s first team roster.
“He was absolutely our first choice,” Arena said of Kessler, who has some loose New England ties through his father, Fred, who played lacrosse and football at Harvard University. “If we had picked [No. 1], we would have picked him.
“We were a little concerned he could have gone [No.]3, 4, or 5, and we tried to move up as well in the draft to get him. We were fortunate that he was available at 6 and jumped on it immediately.”
Arena highlighted Kessler’s physical attributes and also said he’s previously spoken to the player and his family.
“He has good size, he’s a good communicator, he’s smart and can step into midfield and win tackles,” Arena said.
Lekressner was a four-year starter at Cal, which also produced former Revolution defensive standout AJ Soares. Meyer was a four-year starter at High Point and would likely be New England’s fourth-string goalkeeper behind Jeff Caldwell, though he could also be an option for Revolution II.
“We believe the players we took in today’s draft can play a lot this year, whether with the first team or second team,” Arena added. “We have to see how they adapt coming in. They will be with the first team no questions when they start, but if they need an opportunity to play games there’s always the second team. We’re going to place them in a competitive environment, like everyone else, and see how they hold up.”