FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Nothing can ever really be stated with certainty in professional sports until it happens, but as far as Major League Soccer goes, to assume that the New England Revolution will draft a strong rookie class each and every year is a pretty safe bet.
The club’s history in the MLS SuperDraft since Steve Nicol took over as head coach is impressive to say the least. Current Fulham midfielder Clint Dempsey – who will be one of the stars for the U.S. National Team at the upcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa – was selected by New England in 2004, while Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz were picked up one year later. Last year, the Revolution’s impressive rookie haul included two players widely considered to be candidates for the league’s rookie of the year award, defenders Kevin Alston and Darrius Barnes.
In a surprise to absolutely no one, New England’s current rookie crop is once again proving to be one of the best in the league. Of the Revolution’s 10 goals, six have been scored by newcomers Zack Schilawski (4) and Zak Boggs (2), both of whom have found themselves in the starting lineup on multiple occasions.
But while Schilawski and Boggs – the “Zack Attack” to those of us from the Saved by the Bell generation – have received much of the plaudits, there’s only one Revolution rookie to have started all nine games this regular season.
That would be left back Seth Sinovic.
It’s not surprising that Schilawski and Boggs have garnered much of the interest among New England’s rookies. As long as professional sports have been around, attacking players have always been the center of attention.
Yet Sinovic has quietly put together a stellar start to his professional career, stepping seamlessly into the Revolution’s backline from the first game of the season. If it was up to him, quiet is exactly the way Sinovic would like to keep it.
“I think I’m more of an under-the-radar type of guy,” he said. “I don’t really like too much attention. The attention [Schilawski and Boggs] have gotten is well-deserved, and I’m just going to go out there and keep doing what I do.
“When you’ve got guys like Cory (Gibbs), Kevin (Alston) and now Pat (Phelan) in the back and Preston (Burpo) making big saves, it makes the defense look better all the way around, so that makes my job easier,” he concluded.
While Sinovic tends to play down his accomplishments so early in his professional career, the difficulty of the tasks with which he’s been charged in the first nine games of the season cannot be overstated. In the season opener against the LA Galaxy, the 23-year-old had the unenviable duty of containing 2009 MLS MVP Landon Donovan. For the record, Donovan finished the game with one assist, although it was the result of a set piece from the opposite side of the field, away from Sinovic.
That was nothing compared to the performance he had in the home opener against Toronto FC dynamo Dwayne De Rosario, who actually switched sides from the right wing to the left wing midway through the game to get away from Sinovic.
The second-round draft pick has had to make quite a few adjustments while adapting to the professional game, but if Sinovic’s performances are any indication, he’s certainly getting the hang of it.
“More than anything, I’m just trying not to dive in,” he said. “I’m trying to slow my feet down. [This league has] good players, and if they’re not going to beat you with speed or quickness, they’re going to beat you with size and strength.”
Sinovic hasn’t been beaten much by anybody thus far, but he’s well aware that there’s still plenty to learn. Right now, his focus is on getting rid of the ball quicker, as he believes he’s been guilty at times of staying in possession a little too long.
The person who has probably had the best view of Sinovic’s performances is goalkeeper Preston Burpo, who sees plenty of potential in the rookie.
“You can see that he’s learning,” said Burpo. “He has to think a little bit quicker off the ball, defensively speaking. With the ball – again – he has to think a little quicker and know where it’s going before he actually gets it.
“But I tell you what, the kid’s got a lot of confidence and he reads the game well,” he continued. “He’s been a great surprise for us, for sure.”
Such an impressive start to Sinovic’s career has even surprised the player himself. When asked if he could’ve ever imagined starting the first nine games of his professional career, Sinovic was honest in his answer.
“I hoped I would have, but probably realistically didn’t imagine it,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s been great so far, and hopefully it can continue.