FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A number of the New England Revolution’s core and fringe players expressed skepticism about returning for the 2019 season during end-of-season interviews after the team’s 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
Headlining the list of unknowns for next year is Diego Fagundez. The 23-year-old is entering an option year but was expected to be a lock for 2019, which likely is going to involve a significant rebuild for the Revolution after missing out on the playoffs for three consecutive seasons.
When asked if he wants to leave Major League Soccer, Fagundez said, “I think everybody’s goal is to go somewhere else. But if it’s the right move and everybody’s happy, then it is. Right now, I’m in a good spot, so I just need to keep playing, keep focusing on myself and try to do my best.”
A tweet posted by the Twitter account of Fagundez’s father, who is also his agent, two hours prior to kickoff Sunday suggested the match could be his son’s last with the Revolution. After the game, Fagundez barely acknowledged the social media post and was largely noncommittal about his status with the team heading into next year.
“I don’t have social media anymore so I don’t know exactly what was in the tweet or what. I’ve heard about it, but I can’t really answer anything because I was focusing on trying to win the game,” Fagundez said. “Once a chance comes and whatever happens with me, then we can start talking about it.
“Don’t get me wrong, I like playing for these coaches. You can tell they’re hungry and want to win games and make sure we’re winning cups. Whatever happens, happens. Right now, we’re happy where we are — and it’s not up to me, exactly, what the decision is — just looking forward to what’s coming up.”
New England’s Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe also did not offer specifics on their futures.
Agudelo, who has been linked with a La Liga move for months, is set to have his contract expire. And while he said he’s excited about the club’s offseason – namely the construction of a new, $35 million training center – he also suggested he and his agent would assess options during the winter.
“Just have to weigh the options,” Agudelo said.
Rowe seemed particularly frustrated. He’s also heading into an option year. Though he’s had an inconsistent season — due in large part to having to play a number of unnatural positions, such as left back — he’s still widely regarded as one of the best American central midfielders in MLS.
He’s expected to be a hot commodity heading into 2020, when he’ll be a free agent. Many presume he’ll try to sign with the Seattle Sounders, his hometown club.
But Rowe hardly commented on anything transfer related Sunday night – not how he expects his exit interview with Revolution coach Brad Friedel to go or if he was frustrated he wasn’t traded over the summer, or even whether he’s happy being in New England.
Rowe also dodged question after question directly related to his immediate future with the Revs.
“That’s a question for [general manager] Mike Burns,” Rowe said.
“When you guys talk about contracts, it’s not up to me. You guys know it’s out of my hands. You know this league and you know I’m not hitting any free agency,” Rowe added. “It’s out of my hands. It’s for Mike Burns. It’s for my agent. It’s for other clubs to deal with.”
The only player who did not mince words was Claude Dielna. The French defender suffered an enormous fall from grace this season. He entered the year as the club’s captain and one of the highest-paid defensive players.
Friedel removed Dielna from the matchday 18 on Aug. 5 and never brought him back into the fold.
“It’s going to be somewhere else. I will not stay next season,” Dielna said of his next destination. “Now I need some time with my family and I’ll be speaking with my agent, but for sure in January I will be back on the pitch with a lot of energy.”
Andrew Farrell, Antonio Delamea, Gabriel Somi, Michael Mancienne, Teal Bunbury and Matt Turner also spoke Sunday night.
Farrell, who is headed into an option year, said he would weigh his options depending on his exit interview with the Revolution front office.
Delamea said he wants to come back, but added the caveat that he will do what’s best for his family, which is a common refrain for players but also sounds slightly ominous. He’s headed into an option year as well, but his partnership with Mancienne in central defense seems like something to build upon in 2019.
Somi has a guaranteed contract heading into next season, but that doesn’t mean the Revs can’t cut him. In any case, Somi said he’s not happy with his lack of playing time and expressed frustration at the lack of communication from Friedel.
“He just told me to work hard,” Somi said of his exchanges with Friedel, who took him out of the 18-man roster from July 22 through the end of the season.
Somi also intimated that he was being played out of position and that he’d prefer to play in the attack, not at left back. Somi did look more comfortable in advanced roles this season than as a fullback.
Bunbury wants to return, as does Turner. And unless the Revolution want to completely blow up their back line during the offseason, they have to keep Mancienne. Regardless, Mancienne, who wore the captain’s armband Sunday, plans on coming back and spoke about continuing to be a leader.
Though they did not speak to media, both Cristian Penilla and Luis Caicedo are expected to have their loan options purchased.
Backup goalkeepers Brad Knighton and Cody Cropper did not speak to the media, but Knighton seems a safe bet to return. Cropper didn’t make the matchday roster all season.
Defenders Jalil Anibaba and Brandon Bye, midfielders Scott Caldwell and Wilfried Zahibo, and forwards Femi Hollinger-Janzen and Brian Wright also didn’t speak after the match.
This was the first year since at least 2011 that New England’s communications team held exit media interviews on the same evening as the final game of the season. Typically, they take place on a weekday afternoon when there’s less commotion at Gillette Stadium.
Sunday’s setting made for weird circumstances. Many of the players seemed split between talking about their performance against Montreal and their future with the club.
Friedel also offered many of the same refrains – that the team’s mentality was off, that he plans on bringing in exciting players and that he’s ready for a big offseason. However, Friedel kept things exceptionally tight when asked what he feels his greatest area of need is on the field.
“You’ll see as the signings are made,” Friedel said. “They’ll be very prominent. [It] won’t be difficult for you to detect where we want to improve as the signings are announced.”