New England Soccer Today

How Best To Serb The Revs

When the Revs signed a pair of Serbian internationals in Ilija Stolica (Buducnost Podgorica) and Marko Perovic (FC Basel) people began talking about setting up our own Serbian strike-force.  In theory that seemed like an ideal setup: two cultured attacking players from Europe, from thesame nation, but I don’t think that is the ideal.

Should Stolica be partnered with Perovic up top? (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/aduama.com)

From speaking with fans many said pairing the wily veteran and the prime approaching technician would lead to a very productive pairing.  The Revs strikers to that point hadn’t exactly impressed, Zack Schilawski (Rookie 1st Round), Kheli Dube, Kenny Mansally and the injured Edgaras Jankauskas were the “strikers” assembled at the time.  However, despite Schilawski’s 5 goals and Mansally’s emergence there still wasn’t a playoff caliber pairing amongst them.   So dropping all 4 of those players to the bench or the injury room made sense in that regard.

Coach Nicol understood the problem his teams were having in front of net so the Revolution went out and signed Perovic and Stolica during the transfer window.  Perovic and Stolica immediately both made impacts on the Revolution season with both coming in and scoring and setting up goals rather quickly.  Perovic’s dead ball ability was an enormous boost to a team that was muddling along in the free kick and corner kick taking department.

Stolica brought many of the same qualities that formerly Taylor Twellman had brought to the team, the knack for being in the right position to tuck home loose balls in the box, getting his back to the goal and holding up play and just giving the Revs an outlet to seek during build up.  Perovic on the other hand brought in a much more cerebral and skill based game, back heels, dipping free kicks and cheeky tricks made him a rather technical player.

It is easy to understand why people assumed putting both of these guys in the striker slots for the Revs and letting them link up could be the best way to utilize both the new signings.  However, to me, that’s not the best alignment we can use to maximize the abilities of both the team and the players.   If Steve Nicol would continue to go 4-4-2, I would say the strongest lineup in that formation would include moving Phelan to the bench and dropping Marko Perovic into the center of midfield in a more diamond shaped 4-4-2, letting Shalrie focus on being a destroyer and distributor.  Whether Coach Nicol would start either Khano Smith or Chris Tierney you would have cover on the left as both do tend to back track well and on the right Sainey Nyassi’s speed always gives himself a chance to get back and defend.

By moving Perovic into the midfield, it gives you a huge upgrade in both the ability to control the ball and also to set up linking plays that tend to peter out when Phelan gets involved.  Having Phelan off the bench also allows him to come in fresh late in a match and continue his defensive duties when the team is leading with full intensity as other teams bring on fresh subs.   Also by pairing Stolica with a player like Mansally who prior to his call-up to the Gambian National Team squad had been playing some rather attractive football, it allows him to use speed and power to get onto the nice buildup plays started by Perovic and Stolica and the ever improving Sainey Nyassi.

So if I were Steve Nicol and I had my full roster available I would be looking at lineup similar to Reis; Gibbs, Barnes, Osei, Alston; Tierney, Joseph, Perovic, Nyassi; Stolica, Mansally.  To me this would give you both a bit more speed and technical ability in the midfield which would help prevent situations like the SuperLiga final where the Revs could not maintain possession long enough to allow the play to develop for either Perovic or Stolica.

One Comment

  1. Jay

    September 2, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Very valid points for Steve Nicol…the Revs play their best when someone is working like a dog in midfield. The Phelan-Joseph combo is okay, but not lethal enough. But I say keep Gibbs off the field and use Schilawski instead of Mansally. Schilawski is talented and receives little service- when he gets service he scores. Putting Perovic in midfield would arguably give Schilawski more service; look what happened last night: in the absence of Nyassi, Perovic played and midfield and the Revolution scored immediately after Schilawski got on the field…in fact it was his assist!

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