New England Soccer Today

Frosty Farewells

In another clear case of the backward thinking that’s plagued their squad’s recent form, the Revolution front office has allowed a pair of proven players – Marko Perovic and Ilija Stolica – to leave Foxborough all the while the team stumbles through one of its worst seasons ever.

The reasons given by Vice President of Player Personnel Michael Burns were two-fold: clearing cap space and granting a player’s request to return home. Case closed.

Yeah, no. Not quite. There has to be more to the story. Much more.

By allowing the team’s Most Valuable Player in 2010 (Perovic) and a reliable striker (Stolica) to simply walk away from Foxborough hints at a troubling lack of attention exhibited by the organization to attend to the needs of its own.

Granted, Perovic and Stolica were in different situations prior to their departures. Perovic’s season was over due to injury and Stolica’s services were commuted to USL-PRO via loan. And while their contributions were limited in 2011, it clearly wasn’t due to lack of effort – at least on their parts.

Stolica’s situation was curious, to say the least. Despite his impressive late-season showing last year, the Serbian striker struggled during the preseason, and was subsequently dropped from the first team prior to First Kick.

And yet, even in light of the demotion, Stolica showed he could still contribute. In limited action, he scored a vital goal in Vancouver that salvaged a crucial road point for the Revs. His reward? A loan agreement to second-division FC New York, where he was kept to 20 minutes of action.

Then, there’s Perovic. His 2010 season showed that the former FC Basel playmaker could cut it in MLS. His dynamic play was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise forgettable season. And with a full season under his belt, it appeared Perovic would be even better in 2011.

That hope lasted all of 262 minutes – the amount of time Perovic stayed on the pitch before an ACL injury ended his season. And yet, even in light of the injury, there was still the belief that the Serbian playmaker had more to offer once he returned next season.

And he probably did. But there was a problem – one that could’ve been avoided with a small dose of foresight. One that could’ve easily been alleviated by a little TLC from the organization.

According to reports, the team didn’t want to decline the option on Perovic’s deal. They, understandably, wanted to keep one of their best players in the fold.

But, it was clear that Perovic wasn’t happy on Route 1. For reasons unknown but, perhaps, completely avoidable, the 2010 team MVP asked the team to decline his option.

Given how close Perovic and Stolica were – the Serbians were often seen chatting and joking with each other during training – it’s not hard to fathom that, quite simply, the organization never thought to make them feel comfortable here. After all, New England isn’t Europe, and both players were thousands of miles away from home.

In hindsight, it appears the organization had little time or concern with helping them get accustomed to their new surroundings and making them feel welcome. Stolica was banished to second division soccer, while Perovic was rarely seen at Gillette Stadium after his season-ending injury.

On the surface, it seemed as if Perovic and Stolica were clearly disillusioned with the organization. They didn’t appear to be happy here. As a result, the team had no choice but to cut ties with a pair of attacking players that they so desperately need right now.

Sure, the front office may cover their behinds by citing the well-worn “salary cap space” excuse behind the moves. And there is some truth to that, however small. The real reasons, though, may be more embarrassing: the organization failed to help their newcomers adjust to the area, and thus, two talented players just didn’t want to be in Foxborough any longer.

Regardless of whether the moves were due to cap concerns or paying far too little attention to player welfare, Thursday’s roster moves signal one thing, and one thing only: the departures of Perovic and Stolica didn’t have to happen. Because, at the end of the day, this wasn’t really about roster management or number crunching. It’s much, much simpler than that.

This may be as uncomplicated as reaching out to a player to two who may need nothing more than extending a helping hand adjusting to a new environment. This is about understanding that the team employs human beings, not commodities. This is about recruiting talented individuals and keeping them content instead of alienating them (see: Jeff Larentowicz, Andy Dorman, Pat Noonan, and Michael Parkhurst).

In short, the front office can continue to espouse the cold virtues of cost savings and salary cap management over the power of the human touch. It is their prerogative. But, while they do, these stubborn, one-dimensional beliefs have, quite predictably, pile-driven the team straight into the ground.

One Comment

  1. Tom

    July 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    That makes sense. Can’t they do anything right?

    Would somebody please, please take this franchise away from Kraft and his band of bunglers and give it to someone who knows how to run a professional soccer team?

Leave a Reply