Goals won’t come much easier for Rajko Lekic than his game-tying strike against the Chicago Fire on Saturday. The Danish striker beat the Fire’s offside trap and was left all alone in front of goal to calmly pick a spot and blast a shot past goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
It was just the second goal of the season for Lekic and his first since April 23rd.
“I played maybe 5, 6, or 7 games without scoring a goal and I’m here to score to score goals,” said Lekic. “So it’s a tough time for me. Then when I saw the ball in the net today it was big time for me.”
Actually, the scoreless streak totaled eight consecutive games for Lekic. For a player the Revs brought into the squad in April trying to replace the offensive output of the retired Taylor Twellman, two goals in 11 games (or .18 goals per game) for Lekic can hardly compare to the production of the Revs all-time leading scorer Twellman who finished his career with 101 goals in 174 games (.58 goals per game).
And the pressure has been mounting on Lekic to come closer to replicating those results. In recent matches the frustration from Lekic has been noticeable after he’s missed chances or the service from the rest of the team has been lacking.
“I’m a, how do you say it, passionate guy,” said Lekic. “And I want to win games, every game. Like the team, that’s normal, but I’m showing it more than the other guys. [Against Toronto Wednesday], it was maybe a little bit too much. I just want to win games, nothing else.”
Lekic’s strike on Saturday didn’t get the Revs the win, but it did give them a point after the team had fallen behind in the first half. The 6-foot-1 former Silkeborg IF player collected a mishit Pat Phelan shot and was all alone if front of goal after a botched offside trap by the Fire defense, leaving him plenty of time to fire off a shot.
“I saw that Pat was going to shoot,” said Lekic. “I was thinking if he missed the ball, I was all alone and I can get the ball in a free position and then make the goal hopefully. And that happened. So I made the goal like that.”
And while the chance may have been gilt-edged, one could hardly be surprised if Lekic was lacking for confidence after his recent misses. But the veteran was stoic and made no mistake on the finish.
“[Lekic’s goal] was huge,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “Since coming [here] it’s been hard for him playing up on his own to begin with. That’s never easy for anybody. The finish tonight, on the one hand looks simple, but if you panic it becomes a lot harder. But he kept his cool and just stroked it away and just finished.”
It wasn’t just his goal that showed Lekic might be turning a corner. After a disappointing night last Wednesday in the Revs scoreless draw against Toronto, Lekic looked dangerous on several occasions against the Fire.
Lekic threatened Johnson’s net twice in the opening thirty minutes, forcing the ‘keeper to make two saves. And perhaps his most promising moment came on the final kick of the game. Getting a long throw-in from Darrius Barnes, Lekic juggled the ball up in the air and turned on his defender at the top of the box before unleashing a left footed volley that was just wide of the far post.
“[At] the end, he almost pulled one out his you-know-what,” said Nicol.
If he had, the goal would’ve been one not soon forgotten. As it stands Lekic’s equalizer has bought the striker more time to prove he can be the solution up top as the Revs try to turn a struggling season around.
And Lekic for one is enjoying the results of Revs newly implemented 4-4-2 formation in which he’s partnered up top with Kenny Mansally. Lekic has seen an increase in his scoring opportunities the past few games as the Revs have been stronger in the attack.
“It’s nice,” said Lekic of his increased chances. “It actually started against the Red Bulls when I scored a goal [that was ruled offside]. Then I came home [against Toronto] and I had a big chance. [Against Chicago] also two or three chances, so it’s getting better and better.”
Now with the Revs heading on a tough road trip with games in Seattle and Salt Lake, Lekic will need to be sure to make the most of any chances he gets, as he did against the Fire. If the first-year Rev can add to his season tally as the Revs face some of the best in the west, New England will be in a much better position to grab some needed points in one of their toughest stretches of the season.