Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Commentary: The Twellman Contract Extension

In a clear and obvious sign of its commitment to retain its top players, the New England Revolution announced Monday that they have signed 2005 MLS Most Valuable Player Taylor Twellman to a contract extension. Although the official terms of the deal were not officially disclosed by the team, the deal is a reported 4-year agreement in which Twellman will receive $375,000 for each of the first two years, $375,000 plus performance-tiered incentives for the third year and $450,000 during the final year. The extension all but assures that one of the league's best strikers, scoring a total of 75 goals (all with the Revs) in his illustrious MLS career, will continue to grace the home pitch when he reaches the 100 career goal plateau.

The deal can only be seen as sure-fire win/win situation for everyone involved, and not just Twellman and the team.

The perception surrounding Kraft Soccer is one which follows the doctrine of frugality -almost to a fault- in its approach toward signing on-field talent. The team is reportedly the lowest-spending MLS franchise in terms of player salaries, and the re-signing of its own marquee player can only help to squash the affixed cheapskate label. The re-signing of the 26 year-old forward, still in the prime of his career, will certainly give supporters a much-needed boost of confidence in the club in light of the offseason departures of Jose Cancela and Clint Dempsey. With the club's most formidable player secured for the long-term, perhaps this is the new leaf to which the club has turned in the realization that a greater investment in its players will in turn reap greater returns.

There is no question that if there was one player on the team which deserved such a deal, it was Twellman. In addition to his goal-scoring escapades, it is unquestionable that he is the face of the franchise, much like his more-famous Kraft counterpart, Tom Brady, is to the Patriots. Although his popularity will never ascend to levels as high as Brady's, it is unmistakable that the front office has correctly realized that if the Revs are to achieve a greater piece of the professional sports pie in the New England area, they must retain its most recognizable star for the foreseeable future. The long-term investment in its most marketable player also ensures that the dreamy striker will continue to adorn the fliers of Revolution-related events and promotions for years to come, as the team continues to increase its breadth within the region. One need only count the number of fans (particularly the adolescent teeny-bopping crowd) decked out in Twellman regalia on match night to realize the visible impact his presence here has already made within New England's soccer landscape.

On a grander scale, the Twellman signing may be only the first of a series of gambits, with more moves on the horizon. With its Designated Player Allocation still up the French-cuffed sleeve of Kraft Soccer, and the club reportedly well under the MLS salary cap, one has to wonder whether this is just the proverbial carrot, or if it indeed is a preview of coming attractions. Many have bemoaned the franchise for being the penny-pinching uncle of MLS when it comes to investing in its own club, both on and off the field. One can only hope that this signing is the first in a series of player personnel moves the club should undertake, including, but not limited to, the long term procurements of Shalrie Joseph, Matt Reis and Andy Dorman, among others. Of course, the Faberge' Egg (or pipe dream, depending upon how one views these sorts of things) of it all would be the construction of a soccer-specific stadium.

Whether the Twellman signing is indeed just an aberration, or the beginning of a more proactive approach on the part of Kraft Soccer to improve its team, Revolution fans can sleep well knowing that its beloved Best XI striker will continue to perform his goal-scoring magic in Friendly Foxboro for the foreseeable future. And while some will continue to pander Kraft Soccer for its lack of involvement in the team, the securing of one of the league's best players can only be seen as, at very least, a step in the right direction.

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