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New England Revolution’s Michael Mancienne now highest paid defender in MLS

Michael Mancienne joins revolution

The New England Revolution appears to have big plans for newly-acquired central defender Michael Mancienne.

Contract details obtained by Pro Soccer USA indicate that the English center back is currently the highest-paid defensive player in Major League Soccer and should be a centerpiece to the Revolution back line for the remainder of this season and the next.

Mancienne, who the Revolution acquired on a free transfer on Aug. 3, is under contract through the next 16 months, with two additional option years, according to sources with knowledge of the deal the player signed with MLS.

Additionally, Mancienne is on the books for at least $1.28 million in 2018, also making him the highest paid defender in the Revolution’s history. His salary decreases to $881,676 in 2019, but will increase to $1 million should the Revolution pick up his option in 2020 and 2021.

Mancienne, who last played for Nottingham Forest, and the Los Angeles Galaxy’s Jorgen Skjelvik are the only defenders in MLS making north of $1 million this season. Fourteen defenders across MLS are salaried at over $700,000 this season, including Mancienne’s new teammate in New England, Claude Dielna ($909,861), according to the MLS Players Union.

Mancienne has not yet made a competitive appearance for the Revolution and was delayed in getting added to the club’s roster due to his pending visa and international transfer certificate. 

However, the Revolution are officially paying more for defenders than any other team in the league as of Tuesday, when Mancienne’s paperwork came through. Based on guaranteed compensation data alone, New England allocates $3,654,544 of its salary budget on defensive players. That said, the actual figure is likely lower, as Mancienne was added in the secondary transfer window, meaning there won’t be enough time through the remainder of the season for the Revolution to pay the maximum budget charge on the player’s 2018 salary.

The Revolution’s acquisition of Mancienne comes at a critical time for the club, which is in the thick of its worst spell of the year. New England is winless in its last six games and has conceded at least two goals per game in all but one of its last seven matches.

Overall, New England has conceded 38 goals this season, just a shade over the 37.39 league average, as of Aug. 14. 

Revolution coach Brad Friedel has rebuked the team’s carelessness in defending in recent weeks. Failing to properly defend set pieces has been the root cause of New England’s current funk. During the team’s last loss, a 3-2 decision at home against Philadelphia last Saturday, the three goals the Revs conceded came from set pieces.

The club is banking on Mancienne – literally, based on his current pay – to restore some discipline to the back line. On the plus side, Mancienne is a veteran defender with experience in the English Premier League and German Bundesliga. He is 30-years-old and has said he plans to be a leader in New England.

But the Revolution have been down this road before as well. Last August, when the club signed Dielna, it paid him nearly $910,000, the highest salary in the league last season for a defensive player, according to the MLS Players Union.

Dielna has offered occasional flashes of brilliance in his year of service to the club and even got tabbed by Friedel to serve as captain at the start of 2018, but is now not even cracking the bench.

Mancienne could be Friedel’s missing piece, though New England management’s track record of fixing the back line – headed by club general manager Mike Burns – has been highly ineffective since the club’s 2014 trip to the MLS Cup final.

Following the 2014 season, central defender AJ Soares left for Europe. He was not properly replaced in 2015 as then-coach Jay Heaps opted to use Andrew Farrell as a center back with then-captain Jose Goncalves. Additionally, defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones would occasionally slot into defense for added help.

New England never signed a central defender in 2015. With Farrell and Jones filling in, the club never replaced Soares.

In 2016, the Revolution added Sambinha on loan from Sporting CP and signed defensive midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson, but the former only played in two competitives game and Watson only occasionally assisted in central defense.

The club finally added to its central defensive ranks last season. In came Antonio Delamea, Benjamin Angoua, and later Dielna. But the additions were a mixed bag.

Delamea has had a strong presence on the back line since his arrival (though he accepted some responsibility for the team’s current defensive woes and took the blame for Philadelphia’s go-ahead goal last Saturday); Angoua has departed and Dielna hasn’t made the match 18 in two consecutive games.

Sambinha, Watson, and Jones are also long gone.

Last season, the Revolution conceded 61 goals, the third-most in MLS and the most in the Eastern Conference, and didn’t make the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

As far as this season goes, the Revolution, on paper, are just about at the league average for goals conceded. But that shouldn’t be of any solace; the team has been in freefall since June, going winless and allowing multiple goals per game for most of the last two months. If current trends continue the team will miss the playoffs again and likely sail past the league average for goals allowed.

Prior to Mancienne’s cap hit, the Revolution were paying around $2,370,00 to their back line.

That figure is in line with what teams like the New York Red Bulls, New York City FC, Portland Timbers, Atlanta United, and Los Angeles FC – each below the current league average for goals conceded – are paying their defenders. In fact, each of those teams has a defensive payroll between $1.5 million and $2.6 million, according to the MLS Players Union.

That figure proves that teams can defend well without letting the cost of good defenders balloon out of control. Meanwhile, the Revs have had the highest paid defensive player in the league on payroll for the past two seasons. Last year, that player was Dielna, who is now on the fringes.

This year, it’s Mancienne, who could make his MLS debut on Sunday night at D.C. United.

New England’s playoff hopes will hinge on the back line getting corrected. Mancienne is just one piece, but a critical one.

Regardless of his success or failure, he comes at a very steep price.

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