BOSTON- Revolution Captain and reigning league Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves was central to last year's playoff run, though it's still unclear how much he wants to be part of the group in 2014.
On Jan. 19, Less than three months after completing a permanent move to New England following a season on loan from Switzerland's FC Sion, Goncalves, 28, let slip to the blog A Minute in Sports! that he felt undervalued and was looking at moving on in the near future.
When preseason began later that month, Goncalves was naturally asked by reporters to comment on whether he wanted to stay or leave. He said the Revolution didn't honor certain "promises" and that he was looking forward to discussing this further with the club.
Fast forward to Tuesday night, the club's Media Day and Jersey Unveiling at Royale Night Club in Boston, where, during opening remarks, Head Coach Jay Heaps said that all 28 members of his team are excited to kick-off the new season, which begins this Saturday at Houston.
But when Heaps was later asked to clarify that statement-- about whether or not discussions with Goncalves had occurred and if the player was also looking forward to a new season with the Revolution-- he gave a calculated answer that didn't delve into the current relationship between the player and the club.
"There's a lot of different things that occur in the life of a professional athlete," said Heaps. "When we talk about the 2014 season, we're talking about the team expectations and the team goals. Everyone is excited for those."
Goncalves was at Tuesday night's event, but did not comment on the situation.
Earlier this week, former Revolution forward and ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman commented on the situation in a league preview video. He alluded to rumors that surfaced from Revolution training camp regarding Goncalves. That Goncalves, "wears headphones, doesn't talk to the press, [and] warms-up by himself."
That rumor could be true, though it wouldn't mean Goncalves in necessarily distancing himself from the team because he's unhappy or dissatisfied. Goncalves is a fierce competitor who likes to remain distraction free. Warming-up alone could be a routine.
But while the interpretation of Goncalves' behavior in recent weeks is conjecture, his importance to the club is easily quantified. Losing Goncalves in the near future would take away a key defensive piece in central defense; a moving brick wall in front of net that is hard to find in MLS. Seeing Goncalves go would also take away a significant chunk of the club's leadership. The team's average age is about 25 years old. Players benefit not only from the focus and discipline that Goncalves models, but also by his 11 years of experience playing in five different European leagues.
Goncalves saw significant playing time during preseason, but was sidelined for the last game against Colorado as precaution for a quadriceps injury. On paper, he is expected to be a starter on Saturday night if he's healthy and fit. But questions about how long he will be wearing a Revolution jersey continue to linger.
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