MLS New England Revolution

SuperDraft 2020 Recap: Revs go defensive-minded with Kessler, Lekressner

All you need to know about the 2020 MLS SuperDraft in quickie form, complete with Bay State Soccer Sentinel analysis and insight:

THE SKINNY

Revolution select Virginia’s Kessler at No. 6 overall, trade No. 13 to Nashville: The Revs, with a good portion of the roster in place, went with defensive depth in the six slot as Bruce Arena — a former University of Virginia coach — went back to ol’ Virginia to select Henry Kessler, a 6-foot-4 center back. The pick came as a part of the transfer which saw Krisztian Nemeth sent to Sporting Kansas City in the 2018 Secondary Transfer Window. Kessler is on a Generation Adidas contract, which automatically puts him on the Revs roster; it’s the second straight season New England have gone with a GA player. Also good to note: Kessler was in the New York Red Bulls Academy before they dropped him four years ago. The Revs then traded the No. 13 pick to Nashville SC, who made its third pick of the first round by selecting goalkeeper Elliot Panicco of UNC-Charlotte in exchange for $50,000 in General Allocation Money and up to $50,000 in additional General Allocation Money should Nashville’s selection meet certain performance-based metrics with the club.

Two selections made in second round: Unlike last year, the Revolution made their second-round choices, with University of California defender Simon Lekressner the 30th overall selection, and High Point University goalkeeper Keegan Meyer at No. 43. Lekressner, 21, recorded 65 appearances — including 35 starts — with eight goals and five assists in four seasons. The 5-foot-8 defender posted career highs in starts (18) and goals (5) during his senior season with the Golden Bears, which culminated in selections to the All-Pac 12 First Team and USC All-Far West Region Second Team. Meyer, 22, started 74 matches in net. The 6-foot-3 goalkeeper owns the school’s all-time record for shutouts with 27, and earned three consecutive Big South All-Conference selections between 2017-19 — adding two USC All-Region selections and one NCCSIA All-State selection. During his redshirt senior campaign in 2019, Meyer started and played 90 minutes in each of the Panthers’ 20 games, registering 13 wins with seven shutouts, 75 saves, and a .743 saves percentage.

Philadelphia trades out of the first round: From the Big Shock Department… much in the same way it did a year ago, the Philadelphia Union traded out of the first round by sending the 21st overall selection to DC United, which did not have a first-round selection this year, for the 17th spot in the 2020 MLS Allocation order. DCU used that pick to select Simon LeFebvre, a goalkeeper from Temple. In 2019, Philadelphia had traded its entire draft stock to FC Cincinnati.

Clemson’s Robinson No. 1 pick by Inter Miami: The 2019 Hermann Trophy winner, Robbie Robinson of Clemson, found himself selected first by expansion side Inter Miami. The striker/winger, who is expected to be a depth piece for the newcomers, is a Generation Adidas player. He scored 18 goals in 2019 for Clemson, leading the country in four individual categories. The other entrant in 2020, Nashville SC, picked Jack Maher, a center back from Indiana. Maher was the 2019 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Inter then selected Dylan Nealis, a right back from Georgetown.

OF NOTE

Harris goes to RSL, Aviza to Orlando: Three players with regional college ties were selected, as UConn midfielder Dayonn Harris was selected 20th overall by Real Salt Lake, and Providence College’s Austin Aviza went to Orlando City one spot before Meyer. Providence College’s Danny Griffin, a midfielder, went 23rd overall to Columbus. Rounds 3 and 4 will be held next week.

WHAT SWEENS REALLY THINKS RIGHT NOW

The Revs went defensive-minded with this year’s draft, and that’s good: While New England has used picks in SuperDraft for defensive purposes — Brandon Bye two years ago, Joshua Smith three years ago — it’s interesting to see the Revs use three of their four picks on defensive help in one draft. You have to go all the way back to 2013, when the club picked Andrew Farrell with the No. 1 overall selection, as well as Indiana goalkeeper Luis Soffner, as the last time the Revolution went defensive-minded — exclusively defensive-minded — in the draft. When we spoke with Brad Friedel in the middle of Round One last year, he suggested that DeJuan Jones would be an offensive-minded player; we know how that turned out. He became defensive help.

But now in looking at the roster, the Revs have a tremendous amount of defensive depth thanks to these picks (and yes, I’m counting Meyer as a part of that). Including Lekressner, there are eight definite defenders on the roster; with Jones, that’s nine. I’m not even putting Kelyn Rowe back there.

Here’s the defensive depth: Alexander Büttner, Seth Sinovic, Antonio Delamea, Andrew Farrell, Michael Mancienne, Samba Camara, Kessler, Lekressner, and Jones. When was the last time New England had such depth in the back? That would be 2014, when there were nine defenders on the roster.

Arena really wanted Kessler: We heard around 2 p.m. or thereabouts via Revolution in-house reporter Jeff Lemieux that Arena had tried to trade up in order to get Kessler. Now remember, the Revs had the sixth pick in the entire draft… and they tried to move up to get him. From sixth. No one budged. Let’s also remember that before New England made its flurry of moves, Arena was at a University of Virginia game on a scouting mission. We have to think that he was scouting out Kessler.

He also said this about the newest Revolution defender in a 2:30 p.m. conference call: “The message to Henry is we have a great situation here in New England. He’s going to come in and compete with some veteran defenders. Regardless of where he positions himself on the roster, he’s going to have opportunities to play this year whether it’s with the first team or the second team. Whatever it is it’s going to be left up to him.”

Don’t think all three will be with Revs II for the entirety of 2020: There are many out there who have gone with the belief that draft picks are used to fill an MLS club’s USL affiilate; one can point to Harvard’s Sam Brown going to Real Salt Lake’s Real Monarchs program after being selected last year as a prime example. One of the things that Arena made clear during his conference call? That it’s not a foregone conclusion that all three selected Thursday would play for Revs II in USL League One: “We have to see how they adapt coming in here in training. They’ll be with the first team, no question about that. If they need opportunities to play games, there’s always the second team during the year. We’re going to look at them and place them in a competitive environment like everybody else and see how they hold up.”

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