Local soccer MLS New England Revolution Revs II

Sweeney: Revs are doing a good thing in signing Academy/local talent to Revs II… but they can go a step further

On Tuesday morning, the Revolution announced Roxbury’s Meny Silva to the roster of their USL League One side, Revs II. The forward has impressed in his short time, only the last year and a half, with the Revolution Academy, and the dynamic duo of Curt Onalfo and Clint Peay — the club’s technical director and Revs II head coach, respectively — made a move which hopefully will be a continuation of Silva’s development.

Silva’s addition to the roster makes three Massachusetts residents on Revs II, with Attleborough’s Nick Woodruff — formerly of the Revs Academy and Michigan State University — and Lowell’s Mayele Malango the other two. Silva is also the first from the Revs Academy to go directly to the third division. No passing go, no going to college.

The fact that the Revs are opening this side to players in the Academy — kids from Massachusetts and Rhode Island — is, without a doubt, a solid thing to do. With only a certain amount of spots on the first team going to players from the Academy — only seven have had that honor since Diego Fagundez joined in 2011 — it has made many, myself included, wonder: what happens to the kids who have gone through it and never made it to the first team?

Answer: they don’t end up playing pro soccer here in the US. They play fourth division or weekend pub leagues, or they go overseas to find footballing glory like Hanover’s Alex Al-Zaibak did in 2019.

I can count a number of young athletes who are talented, but were for some reason just not talented enough to make MLS: two of which from Leominster, Mass. in Nahuel Albigay and Fabio Machado, both of whom I covered for the Fitchburg paper when they were in high school. Albigay was solid on the ball, and Machado — who went on to play Division 1 soccer at Providence College — was one of the best players I have ever seen as a high school player in Central Mass; I saw him, at age 15, score on a bicycle kick from the penalty spot! He certainly could have played at the USL level. And maybe MLS clubs at the time didn’t have room for a player like Machado on their USL affiliates. That’s fair; the fact the Revs didn’t have one and let a talented player go… it’s a sticking point for many in the Plastics City.

Or Rochester, N.H.’s Aidan Clarke, who trained in Amesbury under former Everton Youth Academy head Tosh Farrell — he who trained a certain guy named Wayne Mark Rooney — is now playing in England. He scored in a U19 freshman game at his Leeds-based college against the Newcastle Elite U19s; heck, he has three goals in six run-outs… but he can’t get a look here in the States? Really?

And there are plenty of other kids in our region, ones who aren’t in the Academy, who could use the development a USL League One side gives to help them reach their pro dream. And let us remind you: Silva didn’t come to the Academy until 2018-19. A year and a half ago. He was unknown before then.

Now sure, it sounds like I’m doing what I’m really good at, giving the Revolution a kick in the side for delaying, delaying, delaying, on a USL affiliate. I wrote two years ago that they needed one and had to do it fast; they’ve done that, they’ve secured one. I’ve praised them for doing so. I’m happy for them, and happy for the kids they’ve signed. It’s wonderful.

It is my hope, though, that they’ll continue to do that — but in truth, they can go a step further and find kids that aren’t just from the Academy, much like an Aidan Clarke, much like a Fabio Machado. I believe the club cannot, and should not, let good talent who aren’t in the Academy slip through their fingers just because they didn’t go to Foxborough for the elite training there.

And this, my friends, is what a youth scouting department is for. Send scouts to the all the college games, at all three levels in Mass. and the surrounding area — Malango first went to Salem State University and rocked the MASCAC before transferring to UMass-Lowell; hell, Julian Gressel was at Providence College, the Revs’ backyard — and go to the prep schools and the high school teams across the breadth of the Commonwealth, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Here in Central Mass., there are plenty of good soccer players just itching for the chance. Same with Eastern Mass. and Western Mass. And sure, some players aren’t good enough for a varsity team — but there are some who are a cut above the rest, who just don’t know about the Academy, who don’t know about how SuperDraft is practically meaningless, etc.

Should those kids be denied a pro dream? I don’t think they should.

The Revs have the ability to put together incredible teams with all of the talent in New England. The Revs have ID clinics, sure, and they do a good job with those, but they can go a step further. They can always go one additional step, the extra mile, to grow in relevance with the youth soccer player.

If they take it, they can show this country that yes, New England is a soccer hotbed.

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