By Mike Rice.
As Major League Soccer goes through its off-season, the moves and signings across the league continue to happen.
Players inside the MLS have been making moves around the league through free agency as well as trades being made between teams.
For players, a trade can at times come out of nowhere. Walker Zimmerman’s move to Nashville was one he was in no way prepared for or aware of. Nashville was an expansion side looking to make a big deal, which worked well in the end, but such a move can still be a shock for a player and their family.
Zimmerman formed a formidable partnership with Dave Romney in the heart of the Nashville defence and it is now Romney’s turn to uproot and move across the country.
Romney received the call that he was being traded to New England Revolution this off-season.
“I knew it wasn’t out of the question, but I didn’t know where or what would be the cause, but I had a feeling that something was going to happen,” Romney tells WFi.
New England were Supporters Shield champions in 2021 with Carles Gil claiming the MVP award, but 2022 didn’t quite go to plan.
Bruce Arena could only lead his side to 10th in the Eastern Conference, missing out on the playoffs by six points.
The signings of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Lletget didn’t turn out how the club would have hoped, and the departures of key players like Matt Turner and Adam Buksa really hit this side hard.
Romney has been brought in along with Latif Blessing and Bobby Wood to add some proven MLS experience through the spine of the team. For Romney, it has been an interesting and exciting move and he has had great first impressions.
“It’s been great,” he says. “It’s nice coming to a brand new training facility. We were training in a makeshift venue for a while in Nashville.
“I’ve been very, very pleasantly surprised with the facilities and all the staff and teammates have been incredibly welcoming.”
The trades system in MLS means players can, at any point, be informed by their clubs that an offer has come in for them that has been accepted.
They have to pack up and move on, something which can be tough for players to do. For Romney, there was a thought that something might happen. Nashville looked to be trying to give Jack Maher more game time and lower the average age of the club.
“Sometimes I have had teammates who head into training and get told hey you’ve just been traded so those ones are a total shock and that can be horrible,” he explains.
“Thankfully this one was in the off-season, and I had more time to think about it and prepare and I kind of had a sense something might happen so at least it wasn’t a total shock.”
Romney was part of one of the best central defences in the league during his time at Nashville. They performed incredibly well across both the Eastern and Western conferences. He arrives in New England as a player who will be seen as one to improve the defence by stepping right into the first team.
In goal, New England has one of the most impressive young keepers in the league in Djordje Petrovic as well as two high-performing full-backs in Brandon Bye and DeJuan Jones.
In the middle, Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler were the regular pairing, with the experienced Omar Gonzalez in reserve.
Christian Makoun was brought in as a promising young defender, and by adding Romney there will be a new starting central defender. Each of the others will be looking to partner the new man.
This could bring pressure to step in, but for a player with Romney’s confidence, he seems to be thriving under the opportunity and will look to lead the side. For Romney though, what he has done in the past isn’t what matters, it’s what he does for his new side this year.
“I don’t think about what I did in the past and just want to do the best I can here,” says Romney. “I’m not paid for my stats, I’m being paid for what I do for this team now and in the future.
“I’m excited to get started and scrimmaging starts soon. Definitely not feeling pressure, I know I’m going to play well, and we will have a good season.”
New additions @latif_blessing & @Dave_Romney12 received new contracts. https://t.co/4ODXTcaTsL
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) January 21, 2023
Romney will partner up with some familiar faces, players on the pitch who he has known for years in such as Bobby Wood, with whom he played in sixth to eighth grade when they were on the same club team.
Matt Polster and Romney both played in U23 camps together as well as a number of other players. His new head coach, Bruce Arena, has known Romney from the start.
“It’s been nice reuniting with him [Arena] and Curt [Onalfo], who were two of the first people to really believe in me in professional soccer.
“Curt signed me to Galaxy 2 and Bruce signed me to my first MLS contract, so they’ve seen value in me from the beginning and it’s nice they still see value in me now and I hope to prove them right.”
Bruce Arena will have no doubt identified Romney for his playing abilities in strengthening the defence from last year, but also as a great cultural fit in the team. Someone who can lead while being respected by players of all ages in the squad as well as coming up through the academy.
For Romney it’s an exciting new opportunity to try and help build the team quickly back to the Supporters Shield level of 2021, and he knows he has the players around him, as well as the opportunity to support young players, to have a good 2023 season.
“Carles Gil and Gustavo Bou haven’t been there in the sessions yet and I’m excited to get in with them after playing against them for years has always been tough,” he adds.
“In Nashville, we had so many players with a lot of experience so I’d be able to take a bit of a back seat but would keep leading on the pitch.
“I’m excited to step up in a younger side as one of the fewer veteran players in the locker room, and step up and take on that role which I didn’t necessarily have in Nashville.”
Trophies are on the minds of Romney and the Revolution, whose drop from Supporters Shield in 2021 to 10th in 2022 has been hard to take.
“Yeah, definitely, I mean I don’t know what you’re doing if you’re not going not there trying to win a trophy.”
They have added with care and Arena hasn’t made sweeping changes to a side which already had plenty of quality.
Getting Giacomo Vrioni firing after coming in to replace Adam Buksa will be key. The Italian striker arrived midseason in 2022 from Italian giants Juventus, and the 24-year-old managed one goal in 248 minutes across seven games.
Vrioni, like the new arrivals, will have the off-season now to get fully up to speed and aim to be the striker Arena and co hoped he would be coming in.
It’s a tough ask to replace Buksa who had such great success, and Vrioni will need to start the season off strong to build his confidence as well as help the team become the formidable side they want to be in MLS.
Romney will be a key figure in the back line, shouting instructions and leading the Revolution from the back in a season in which they are aiming to bring success back for the supporters.
With Nashville also moving back to the Eastern Conference it won’t be long till Romney goes up against his former side when the Revolution host them on March 18th.
“It will be exciting and funny to see them all again,” he anticipates. “I have a lot of really good friends on the team and had an amazing time in Nashville.
“It will be nice that it’s my second go around at it, having played LA Galaxy while at Nashville.
“I think the first time I went back was this past season and playing in front of Galaxy’s home fans there is a little bit of like jitters, but the second you start playing it completely goes away and just focus on the game.
“Having that experience playing against a former club should be good.”