FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Second-year striker Zack Schilawski has found renewed life in the New England Revolution’s new 4-5-1 formation this season. The 23-year-old attacker found himself coming off the bench at the end of last season, but worked hard in the offseason to earn a starting spot and has been a key component to the Revs early success this season as the lone forward in the side’s new set-up.
Schilawski’s hard work was rewarded on Saturday as the Wake Forest product opened the scoring in the Revs 2-1 victory over D.C. United.
“I’m there a little bit by myself but I feel like I have a little bit more support with [Joseph] right underneath me and the two wingers up there,” Schilawski said. “On paper I’m up there alone, but I feel more support than last year’s 4-4-2 with two deep holding midfielders. I think with more midfielders it’s made it easier for me to hold the ball up.”
On Saturday, the Revolution and Schilawski benefited from controversial calls from the referee for the second consecutive game. On his opening strike, Schilawski appeared to control a cross from Shalrie Joseph with his arm before poking a rebound into the net for his first score of the season.
But the goal wasn’t all fortune. Schilawski peeled away from three United defenders, collected Joseph’s cross, and fired despite being off balance at the United goal. DC defender Marc Burch blocked the effort, though the ball fell back to Schilawski who tapped in his own rebound past goalkeeper Pat Onstad.
Schilawski’s ability to control the ball when off balance and beat surrounding defenders also caused the corner kick with led to the Revolution’s goal in the season opener against the Galaxy on March 20.
Last season, Schilawski opened his scoring account with a hat trick during the season opener against Toronto FC. But Schilawski finished the season with just five goals and did not score after the month of May.
Schilawski, who trained during the winter with former Revolution assistant coach Paul Mariner at Plymouth Argyle in England, used this year’s offseason and preseason to prepare for his second year in MLS.
“I just tried to continue my momentum for the end of [last] season,” Schilawski said. “In the off-season, the goal was to come into pre-season fit enough so you can get through without injuries and accomplish things. I feel like I had a really good preseason and it’s been transferring over to the regular season.”
Schilawski netted one goal and added two assists in the Revolution’s six preseason matches. But for most of preseason, Schilawski was paired with either Ilija Stolica or Kheli Dube as a striker, rather than the lone attacker in a 4-5-1. Stolica has yet to make a professional appearances this year, while Dube, who played alongside Schilawski for the beginning part of last season, made his 2011 debut as a substitute on the right wing on Sunday.
“I like playing with Kheli,” said Schilawski. “I had some experience playing up top with him last year. I think he has some good ideas. It helps me when he’s out there as far as my movement off the ball.”
Schilawski could see more competition for his striker spot should the Revolution sign another forward and continue to employ the 4-5-1. The Revolution, who are continuing talks with Danish forward Rajko Lekic and have eyes for a designated player, did not have the same options last season for player selection.
“I think we have a ton more depth this year,” Schilawski added. “I think obviously the biggest difference is in training. Training is really competitive. Tons of competition for spots this year, which only makes everyone better.”