Revs open camp with holes to fill

[MLS TEAM PREVIEWS] In the past three seasons, the Revs have played in three MLS Cups and lost all three. As preseason training opens Wednesday, they have at least three players to replace. In his series examining MLS clubs' preseason maneuvers and preparations, Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney reports on how Chris Albright reacted to the Galaxy's trading methods.

Pat Noonan and Andy Dorman left on free transfers and San Jose took James Riley in the expansion draft. Defender Avery John played out his contract and turned down the Revs' offer of a new deal.

By the end of the season, Dorman had lost his starting spot, but the other three players seldom sat on the bench if they were healthy, and Riley would have been one of the possibilities to replace John in the back line.

By sending allocation money to Los Angeles in exchange for right back Chris Albright and using the No. 13 overall pick on rugged defender Rob Valentino, is Coach Steve Nicol laying the groundwork for using four in the back more often instead of usually going with three, or just building depth in case other players, like defender Michael Parkurst, decide to leave?

"We've played that system for the last few years, and I don't want to speak for Steve, but obviously he's going to adjust and adapt to our personnel and what gives us the best chance of winning," says Revs director of soccer Mike Burns. "Whether that's three or four in the back remains to be seen."

Albright will stay with former Galaxy teammate Matt Reis while he hunts for a place to live. All he knows is that Nicol plans to use him in the back and he'll need some warmer clothes.

"It's a little colder here than in L.A.," said Albright, who had signed a new long-term contract just two weeks before getting news of the trade. "I just felt that I was misled a bit. If they came up to me and said, 'We don't have you in our plans anymore, we don't think you're the player that you were, we're going to trade you,' fine. I can live with that.

"I'm not crying over being traded. Just tell me, let me know you don't want me around. Let me negotiate a deal with a team that wants me around, as opposed to a team that has every intention of trading me. That I don't appreciate.

"In the end, I wound up in a good place."

Questions also swirl around players who are returning.

Striker Taylor Twellman groused about an aborted transfer to Preston of the English League Championship (second division). The offer eventually reached $3 million, still the Revs said no, and the issue is all but dead.

Steve Ralston, who shifted from right midfield to a central role when Dorman was benched and led MLS with 14 assists, turns 34 in June.

Veteran Joe Franchino has signed a new contract after playing just three games as a substitute last season because of a torn peroneal tendon in his right ankle and a personal leave of absence.

Draftees Adam Cristman and Wells Thompson ended up playing a combined 55 games (25 starts) last season. They could be regular starters this season, with Cristman teamed with Twellman up front and Thompson taking the right midfield role.

Cristman will miss the start of the Revs' camp to train in Florida with the U.S. under-23s, and Twellman and Parkhurst are in Southern California with the senior team.

After selecting Valentino, the Revs picked midfielder Michael Videira, who has passed up MLS, so far, to take a shot at Europe, and Duke teammate Joe Germanese.

Valentino is in camp, as are Matt Britner and Spencer Wadsworth, taken in the third and fourth rounds, respectively. Germanese is finishing classes and will report to the team in May.

Also tending to academic matters are Supplemental selections Chris Tierney and Saidi Issacs. Kheh Dube and Kyle Altman are in camp.

Developmental players Sainey Nyassi and Abdoulie Mansally, who played for Gambia in the FIFA U-20 World Cup last summer before signing with MLS, are in their native country awaiting issuance of their P-1 work visas. Both turn 19 this week and as projects for the future will be going through their first preseason camp as MLS players.

Invited as a trialist is striker Jose Angulo of St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J., who trained with the Red Bulls, Revs and Crew last summer as well as clubs overseas. Both teams filed a discovery claim on him; the Revs were awarded his rights earlier this month by the league, which used as rationale the fact New England filed a second such claim on him last December, and the Crew didn't. Under MLS rules, discovery claims expire at certain times of the year.

As a discovery player, Angulo wasn't placed in the MLS SuperDraft and hasn't signed a contract. He must also resolve some citizenship issues; born in Colombia, he has yet to obtain U.S. citizenship and has expressed a desire to play for the United States.

As camp opens, there are newcomers on hand, and others to arrive later, and all of them are there for a reason.

"We liked Rob anyway and we're happy to get him," said Burns. "With Rob and Chris Albright, and James Riley gone and the uncertainty over Avery, we feel like we've filled a couple of needs."

Several needs remain to be filled if New England is to match D.C. United (1996-99) as the only team to play in four straight MLS Cups.

MLS Preseason Previews
Jan. 28 -- Real Salt Lake

Jan. 29 -- D.C. United


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