New England Revolution signs forward Bjorn Runstrom

By Kevin Koczwara

The New England Revolution announced the signing of Swedish forward Bjorn Runstrom on a free transfer. Runstrom,  28, will occupy an international spot on the team’s roster once he receives his U.S. P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate.

Runstrom came through Hammarby IF youth system before moving to Italy to join  Serie A side Bologna’s youth team. After two seasons with Bologna, the forward moved to A.C. Chievo Verona and then to ACF Fiorentina in 2003. After playing in Italy for a few years, Runstrom returned home to Hammarby and scored 18 goals in 57 appearances for the team before transferring to English Premier League side Fulham.

Fulham sent the forward on two loan spells, one with Luton Town in the Championship and one with Kaiserslautern in Germany. The deal didn’t work out for Runstrom and he returned to Sweden to play for Odense Boldklub. He then moved back to Hammarby.

Runstrom scored three goals in 24 appearances for Hammarby last year after signing with the team in February 2011. A disagreement with new coach Gregg Berhalte is believed to be the reason for the club to let got of Runstrom.

The Revolution brought the 6’1″ forward in for preseason training while the team was in Tucson, Ariz. He scored one goal against Real Salt Lake in 2-1 win for the Revolution in the Tucson Cup before leaving the team after being unable to come to a contract agreement with the club.

Roster Moves

Today, that agreement was announced. The Revolution will have 29 players on the roster when Sainey Nyassi returns from the DL in late April, which more than likely means New England will let someone go.

Runstrom becomes the team’s fifth signing at forward this offseason after the signings of French Saër Sène, former D.C. United striker Blake Brettschneider, and Colombians Jose “Pepe” Moreno and Fernando Cardenas . Manager Jay Heaps will have to find a way to fill all the players in or let someone go. He also has Kenny Mansally, Sainey Nyassi, and Zak Boggs, all of whom can play forward, on the roster from last year’s team (Boggs and Nyassi are currently injured).

In need of a defender

Shalrie Joseph played the full 90 minutes last week at center back for the Revolution in the team’s 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers because of injuries. A.J. Soares was the only healthy center back on the roster and Heaps decided to move Joseph next to Soares in a back four. The move worked out and the Revolution were able to hold on to its first win of the season, but there are still questions about the depth in the defense.

Stephen McCarthy will return to the line up after missing the last game due a suspension because of a red card he received against Sporting Kansas City the previous week.

Lozano is still listed as doubtful with a right hip flexor strain and Darrius Barnes is listed as out with a left calf strain. On top of Barnes and Lozano, add Joseph (sickness), Kevin Alston (nasal fracture) and Chris Tierney (right ankle sprain) to the injury report — all are listed as questionable for next week’s game against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

It’s a tough time for the New England defense, but if the team can weather the tough stretch of games it has to start the season and get healthy, it should now have enough forwards to make a run at a playoff spot. For now, though, Heaps will have to mix and match in the defense as injuries have depleted the core of players he has available.

Kevin Koczwara can be reached at kkoczwar@gmail.com.

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