New England Soccer Today

Starting from Scratch?

An anemic New England Revolution offense started to turn around towards the end of the 2011 season thanks to some late additions, but new head coach Jay Heaps might not get the chance to build upon that improvement in 2012.

Jay Heaps may have to replace Rajko Lekic and other key players from the 2011 squad. (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/

Where will the experienced Dane, Rajko Lekic, with his history of scoring in various European leagues that then head coach Steve Nicol picked up early in 2011 to attempt to replace some of the production of Taylor Twellman be in 2012? His contract option wasn’t picked up after scoring six goals in 23 games.

How about the Revs first DP, promising young Argentine Milton Caraglio? The Revs declined their option to buy him despite his three goals in 12 games.

And what about Monsef Zerka, the versatile Moroccan who finally seemed to bring consistent service to the wings? Two goals and an assist in seven games weren’t enough for the Revs to accept his contract option.

Sure, the Revs could attempt to re-sign all three at smaller price tags and both Lekic and Caraglio have expressed interest in returning in separate reports, but there is still no word of new contracts and the January transfer window fast approaches. (UPDATE: And Lekic today tweeted he was unlikely to re-sign)

Marko Perovic, the 2010 Revolution MVP, was released midseason, while another experienced striker, Ilija Stolica was also sent packing early in the season. Zimbabwean striker Kheli Dube, whose career was derailed due to both injuries and other issues after scoring eight goals in 2009, is also gone after being selected by the Chicago Fire in the Re-Entry. Unused rookie striker Alan Koger was jettisoned.

If the season were to start today, the Revs would be left with just 16-year-old Diego Fagundez and soon-to-be third year striker Zack Schilawski as well as two players who saw much of their time last season in midfield, Gambian Kenny Mansally and underused rookie Ryan Kinne, to play up top. The team selected forward Nate Jaqua in the re-entry draft, but has yet to announce a contract agreement.

Schilawski started last season as a starter, but scored just one goal in 25 matches. Fagundez impressed, but it’s hard to project how he’d do starting over a full season as a 17-year-old next year. Mansally has been inconsistent and Kinne, though a two-time First Team All-American forward in college, was used mostly on the wings in reserve games and preseason. Even should Jaqua sign, he’d be a revival project having not scored a goal in league play since 2009.

That group seems unlikely to bring back any memories Twellman and the Revs offensive success in their run to three straight MLS Cup Finals from 2005-2007. If Lekic or Caraglio re-sign things look a bit brighter, but Heaps would still need to find the right combination up top and potentially still look for upgrades up top.

Of course no striker can be successful without good service and if the team fails to re-sign Zerka, Heaps will have another hole to fill. Since Steve Ralston’s retirement the Revs have been unable to find anyone who can come close to replicating his consistent service. Zerka seemed to be the best option yet and was part of an improved midfield with Ryan Guy, who is likely to return, on the opposite wing. Both would benefit from a full preseason with the team. If Zerka doesn’t return, the team is left with Mansally, Sainey Nyassi, Zak Boggs and potentially Chris Tierney and Ryan Kinne, all of whom have failed to prove they can lock down a starting spot.

While, the center of the midfield saw less turnover, Nicol never found the perfect combination. Benny Feilhaber’s and Shalrie Joseph’s undeniable talent means the Revs almost have to start both, but when paired together in a four man midfield, the team struggled at times on the defensive end. A full preseason and a fully healthy Joseph might make a difference, but that remains to be seen. The potential addition of defensive midfielder Clyde Simms, another re-entry draft pick, is another option as is rookie midfielder Stephen McCarthy.

Heaps undoubtedly has plenty of work to do on the defense, but the team’s attempts at frugality in regards to Lekic, Caraglio and Zerka – however well intentioned – could leave the rookie head coach with even more issues in the attack. The roster, as presently constituted is undeniably worse than last year’s squad.

It will take a combination of re-signing some of last year’s promising player and adding new stars to bring hope for 2012. That must happen in time for Heaps to get his team ready in preseason if the Revs hope to avoid a slow start in an improved Major League Soccer where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make the late season playoff runs that defined the early part of Nicol’s tenure.


  1. Alex

    December 22, 2011 at 9:24 am

    If this team doesn’t get it together and resign Psycho and Zerka, they’re going to have to do a whole hell of a lot to get me back on a regular basis. I will concede we tend to make our moves later in the pre-season, but they better get on it. I have no problem focusing my time/energy on the Boston Victory SC until the Revs get their sh*t together.

    • Sean Donahue

      December 22, 2011 at 10:21 am

      Unless they have something unofficial in place, the longer it takes to re-sign these players, the better the chance is they get an offer elsewhere. I’m surprised we haven’t heard any news on any of them or any of the Re-Entry Draft players yet.

      Heaps has a lot of work ahead of him.

  2. Mat

    December 23, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Just read that Psycho Rajko most likely won’t be back because of this cheap organization. Like what was already said, I really hope this organization is going to bring in equal, if not better, players than the ones they were too cheap to resign. I’m trying to stay a fan of this team but if we have another crap season at the fault of the owners, the only local games I’ll be going to will be Boston Victory games.

Leave a Reply