FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – In a sense, Marko Perovic was sold on coming back to New England well before Revolution general manager Michael Burns reached out to invite him for a preseason trial.
Perovic, who spent two seasons (2010-11) with the Revolution, was out of contract when Burns called. But it wasn’t merely the prospect of employment that lured the Serbian international back to Gillette Stadium.
“I have such good memories here, and I felt good about playing here,” Perovic said. “So I had to come back for one more (opportunity) because the people here were great to me three years ago. So, of course, I had to come here one more time and (give) it my best (shot).”
The 30-year-old midfielder’s return to Foxborough is one of the most interesting stories of preseason camp, which kicked off on Saturday.
Perovic was originally signed by the club prior to the 2010 season after he was scouted by Burns and then-Revolution manager Steve Nicol. At the time, Perovic had just come off a successful stint with Swiss side FC Basel, and seen action in the prestigious Europa League tournament the year before.
In his first season with the Revolution, he became one of the club’s best attacking talents. He served as the club’s set piece specialist, and led the club in scoring with six goals. At the end of the season, he was voted team MVP, and had quickly become one of the club’s most popular players.
With a full year of MLS experience under his belt, Perovic seemed ready to make his second season in New England even better. But in an Apr. 23, 2011 match against Sporting K.C., Perovic suffered an ACL injury that effectively ended his season. Well, at least that’s what most believed.
Perovic, however, felt he could be back sooner. He didn’t want to wait until the 2012 season to return to the pitch.
“Normally, here (in the U.S.), healing time (for ACL injuries) is 6-9 months,” Perovic said. “In Europe, it’s different. If you’re ready, of course you go to play. I was ready after three and a half months, because I had a good recovery, and I started to play again.
“I signed a contract with the club, and I (wanted to) play. I didn’t want to lose the whole season – I would’ve only lost 4-5 months, and this was important to me.”
So Perovic took the matter into his own hands when his mid-year option arrived in June 2011. Depending upon who you ask, Perovic gave the Revolution an ultimatum: let me play, or let me go. Another version had the Serbian midfielder asking for a substantial raise, even though mid-year pay increases – especially for injured players - are unheard of in MLS.
Regardless of the circumstances that led to the Revolution declining his mid-year option, Perovic never forgot about his time in Foxboro. In fact, he stayed in contact with one key member of the organization.
“Marko’s someone that I’ve had dialogue with over the last couple of seasons, since I took over,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “He was gone when I took over, but (he’s) someone that always, I think, enjoyed his time here, and someone that we’ve been working to get back in and at least look at (again).”
Perovic is certainly grateful for the chance, even if nothing is guaranteed, not even for a player who’s already proven himself in a Revolution uniform before.
“I had the best memories here, because I played football here (so) easily,” Perovic said. “People here were so friendly to me, and this was important to me. I feel here like it’s my home.”
Heaps hopes that Perovic’s comfort level will allow him to tap into the same form that allowed the Serbian midfielder to thrive on some decidedly unimpressive Revolution squads.
“I think that this is a really good opportunity for both of us to feel each other out a little bit,” Heaps said. “And see where we can go.”