Saturday, January 19, 2008

SuperDraft Surpise: Revolution acquire Albright, select five others

Well, that was interesting.

Instead of the standard wheeling and dealing of picks, cash, and local delicacies (perhaps), New England drastically altered its typical pre-SuperDraft course this year by making an immediate splash. With their selection at the 13th slot of Friday afternoon’s draft about an hour away, the club traded for – get this - an actual tangible player by acquiring Los Angeles Galaxy fullback Chris Albright for some allocation money.

What’s next – an announcement on a Revolution Soccer Specific Stadium?

Naturally, the player acquisitions didn’t end with Albright. After all, the Revolution still had some business to attend to by selecting this year’s incoming freshman class.

However, the surprises didn’t end with the Albright acquisition. While manager Steve Nicol has never made a secret of his affinity for ACC talent, he certainly went about stocking the cupboards differently this year. For the first time in recent memory, the program du jour wasn’t Wake Forest University. Rather, it was Duke University that Nicol & Co. looked at, scouted, then plundered for a total of three players, while selecting two others from opposite ends of the country.

The first pick (13th overall) for the Revolution came in the form of University of San Francisco defender Rob Valentino. The tall defender (6-3) instantly gives the club the height it’s been lacking on the backline in recent years, and could eventually become Michael Parkhurst's successor at centerback. Though Valentino missed the entire 2007 campaign due to a preseason left knee injury, he did find himself on both the US MNT U-23 side and the 2007 Hermann Trophy watch list prior to his absentee season. No doubt that Nicol, after watching Houston exploit the club’s undersized backs for two consecutive MLS Cups, had no problem utilizing his first selection on a big defender to tower over the likes of Dwayne DeRosario, Brian Ching and Joseph Ngwenya.

To address the depth (or lack thereof) in the midfield, Nicol plucked two midfielders from Duke for the next two selections. The first one, selected at 18th overall slot in the second round, was local product Michael Videira, another tall (6-1) player added to the roster. The kid from Milford, MA was senior captain last year, and in his four years in Durham, tallied 17 goals and 38 assists for the Blue Devils. He was named a Hermann Trophy finalist twice (2005 and 2006), and his presence will certainly help alleviate the concerns in the middle for the Revolution this season - that is, should he sign with the club. Though the club owns his "rights", there has been speculation that Videira is keener on European football than American soccer, and may defer to a European club before stepping onto the synthetic pitch at Gillette.

Next up was Videira’s Blue Devil teammate Joe Germanese, who was also taken in the second round (27th overall). Germanese is playmaker that should bolster a New England midfield that stagnated down the stretch last season. Heralded as a player unafraid to go forward, he scored three goals and chipped in seven assists in 2007, and finished his collegiate career with 18 goals and 22 assists. Moreover, he gives his new club a player that won’t be shy in putting the ball on net after putting 16 shots on net for the Dukies last season.

In the third round, Nicol returned to the backline by selecting Brown University back Matthew Britner. Surely taken on some insightful advice of Brown head coach Mike Noonan, a regular at New England’s reserve matches, Nicol added another tall (6-1) defender to help patrol the rear. Britner, who’s played the past four years on Noonan’s remarkably technical squad, may be a dark horse to land a starting role with the first team before long.

To wrap things up, the club focused itself up front. With the recent news of the club’s decision to decline the contract option on forward Pat Noonan, Nicol addressed a potential hole by selecting his final Blue Devil of the day: Spencer Wadsworth in the fourth round (55th overall). The diminutive forward (5-8) wasn’t a regular starter in 2007, but had an impressive cumulative body of work comprised of 25 career goals and 34 assists in his four years at Duke. His 2006 campaign was by far his best, when he led the NCAA in assists (14) while scoring eight goals, tying him for 2nd-best (with – who else- the aforementioned Vadeira) on the club. Given Wadsworth’s apparent inclination to design rather than score, don’t be surprised to see Nicol utilize him in the midfield, should the need arise.

There you have it. With the eyebrows returning to their original positions, scarves handed out, and press photos taken, it’s back to Foxboro for Nicol, Mariner & Burns. For greater insight into the Revs SuperDraft, read Mike Marshall's Draft Recap. On Wednesday, it’ll be more talent evaluation to come, when the club holds its annual tryouts that evening at the Dana Farber Fieldhouse.

Before you know it, that little thing Revs fans have waited for since the evening of November 18th – the 2008 season - will soon be upon us.

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