New England Soccer Today

Top 5 of 2011: The Revolution

Rajko Lekic scored the the game-winner in a memorable match against Sporting K.C. on April 23rd (Photo: Chris Aduama/

Let’s face it: 2011 wasn’t particularly kind to the New England Revolution. And that’s probably putting it lightly.

Nevertheless, the year wasn’t entirely devoid of hope or optimism. Sure, there may have been offensive struggles, curious substitutions and gut-wrenching defeats (and draws). But, it would be a mistake to say that absolutely nothing positive transpired in Foxboro in the last 365 days.

Subject to healthy debate and discussion, here are the Top 5 moments for the Revolution in 2011.

5. A.J. is A-OK. Holding the sixth overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, there were a variety of areas the Revs could have targeted. Sensing the need to address their D, the Revs braintrust selected Cal center back A.J. Soares, a cerebral defender who immediately drew comparisons to former Revs defender Michael Parkhurst. After being thrown into the fire from First Kick onward, the deceptively-speedy and technically sound Soares impressed until an ankle injury suffered in September cut short his eye-opening rookie campaign.

4. A Designated Player is signed – finally. Going into the 2011 season, the Revolution was one of the last clubs since the Designated Player Rule was adopted prior to the 2007 season that refused to open their wallets for a high-salaried acquisition. But in August, the team finally relented by signing Argentine Milton Caraglio, a 22-year-old Rosario Central striker who was a transfer target of West Ham in 2010. A classic hold-up forward, Caraglio gave the Revs some much-needed physical presence inside the box and alleviated some of the pressure off of his sly and deceptive strike partner Rajko Lekic to score the goals all by himself. Although a seven-game goal drought may not have been what the Revs had in mind, he showed the class and technique that New England hadn’t seen since the heyday of Taylor Twellman. Before the close of the calendar year, the Revs made another Designated Player signing when they inked skipper Shalrie Joseph’s to new deal that will keep him in Foxboro through the 2012 season.

3. Feilhaber’s fortuitous arrival. When Benny Feilhaber returned Stateside after he was transferred from Danish side AGF Aarhus to MLS, it was all but assumed that the former UCLA midfielder would get selected by Chivas USA in the allocation draft. But when the Goats surprisingly passed, the Revolution moved quickly to grab the talented playmaker. The addition of Feilhaber not only bolstered the midfield, but toward the end of the season, gave Shalrie Joseph the reliable partner he had missed since Jeff Larentowicz was traded to Colorado prior to the 2010 season. And with Feilhaber set to return in 2012, one area the Revolution won’t have to worry about this winter is the middle of the park.

2. Heaps is Hired. After 10 seasons with Steve Nicol at the helm, the organization decided that a different approach was needed to kick the Revs in the ribs and awaken them from their recent slumber. Although the powers that be could have gone in a myriad of directions for their new hire, it was former defender Jay Heaps who earned the appointment as New England’s newest head coach. Short on experience, but well-versed in modern approaches (including video and computer analysis, as well as a renewed focus on strength and conditioning) to the game, Heaps may be the elixir the anemic Revs have craved since their last MLS Cup run in 2007.

1. Diego’s dramatic debut. The expectations for any teenager signed to a professional contract are often artificially raised – especially when that teenager signs on the dotted line at age 15. After watching from the sidelines for the better part of the season, Homegrown Player Diego Fagundez finally made his debut on Aug. 6 – and did everything but disappoint. Within the course of his first MLS minutes, the mohawked magician terrorized the Goats, setting up the first goal when he was tripped inside the box then scoring before the final whistle. Though the Revolution may have fallen a goal short in the 3-2 loss, Gillette Stadium was buzzing when it was all said and done, leaving little doubt that a star had been born.

Honorable mention: The 3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City on Apr. 23rd. For one magical 90-minute stretch, the Revs teased their fans with a glimpse of what might have been before the wheels fell off. Marko Perovic put the hosts up early thanks to an assist from newly-signed Benny Feilhaber while Shalrie Joseph responded after a pair of Sporting K.C. goals. With the score knotted at two, another newcomer – Rajko Lekic – stepped up and scored the game-winner in the final minutes. While the win put the Revs at a respectable, if not surprising 2-2-3 record, the game itself may have been more notable in the sense that it was only occasion in which the Revolution fielded a starting XI that included Joseph, Feilhaber, Lekic and Perovic. What might have been, indeed.


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