Commentary

Revolution look for Designated Player

Updated: October 3, 2010, 3:23 AM ET
By Gus Martins | ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Revolution's taxing and substandard season has even affected the team's higher-ups, said COO Brian Bilello, who yesterday mentioned the Kraft family has authorized the team to spend above the salary cap for 2011 to acquire the types of players who can quickly restore the team back to its winning ways.

"At the ownership level, we've talked about it,'' said Bilello. "This team hasn't performed the way we wanted it this year, and in talking to ownership, their priority is not only getting better but they want to get better quickly. In talking about it, it was very clear they understand that there might be things that might take some time to do, and they wanted to think of ways that we could get better very quickly.

"So frankly, what we decided on is we are going to be looking bring in a Designated Player this off season.''

The Designated Player enables a team to entice higher-caliber players from outside the league. A team can offer them an almost unlimited salary with the first $400,000 counting against the team's salary cap. Teams are allowed to contract two such players but can trade for a third one.

"Our goal would be to find the player and have one in place for the beginning of the season,'' said Bilello. "I can't tell you for certain whether it would be one designated or multiple designated players right now. We are actually going to be looking at multiple scenarios involving designated players. Depending on what we do with other players and how much cap room we have, that might define [things].

"Or, if we find four guys that are $200,000 players that we really like, that may mean that we are looking at one designated player that we can fit. If there's less of that going on and we think we might have room for two and make that work, we might have two. I'm not ruling out either scenario right now. At the very highest levels our owners have told us they want us to go out and find players who can help us right now. ''

The Revolution, who fell to 7-15-5 with Saturday night's 2-1 home loss to Real Salt Lake, were counting down the days to their worst season in nine years that left them out of postseason with four games to play. The team has had a miserable road record, going 1-10-2 away from home. A big part of the team's woes has been playing the season without all-time leading scorer Taylor Twellman who is suffering from post-concussion syndrome and will likely retire at the end of the season. His expiring salary and that of recently released Edgaras Jankauskas can be used next season for player acquisition.

The New York Red Bulls, owned by the Austrian energy drink concern, have three DP's with the addition of Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez. But Bilello said it's unlikely the team would spend in the neighborhood that the Red Bulls spent to acquire Henry and Marquez ($6.5 million and $5 million per year, respectively, according to written reports).

"I think in all likelihood, those players will be of the moderate Designated Players,'' added Bilello. "We are going to look at moderate Designated Players who can help us get better regardless of their marketing ability. That's a bit of a shift from what we've said in the past. & That being said, on top of that, we will still be looking for a big-named Designated Player that can help us on and off the field.

"But I think as we've said in the past, and I still feel this way, there aren't that many guys out there that you can spend a lot of money on that will bring more money in than you put out.''

Bilello said that while DP's can help a team realize a quick fix, four of the top six teams in MLS don't presently have designated players.

On another topic, Bilello said that Revolution coach Steve Nicol and vice president of player personnel Mike Burns are safe despite some questionable player acquisitions and trades.

"I guess what I would say is that we are not at the stage and thinking about it,'' Bilello said about replacing the team's technical staff. "What I will say is our technical staff has been outstanding, and when you look at all of the things that we've faced these last couple of seasons, like league structure, injuries and things like that, our technical staff has done a great job. And I'd say we are pretty happy with the performance of our technical staff over the last several number of years."

Bilello said he doesn't think that Nicol's voice has died down or that his coaching methods have grown less relevant over time.

"No, I don't think it has happened here,'' Bilello said. "No. I think if you would tell me over nine seasons that we would have a team that would make the playoffs eight of those nine years, get to four MLS Cups and win two other trophies, and win some of those MLS Cups, I think I would take that going forward. And at this point, I don't there's any evidence to show that we are not in a position to do that.''

Gus Martins covers the Revolution for ESPNBoston.com.

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