Caraglio-Lekic partnership pays dividends

Milton Caraglio and Rajko Lekic played together for the first time this past weekend

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Upon his arrival as the New England Revolution’s first-ever Designated Player three weeks ago, Argentine forward Milton Caraglio was billed as the long-awaited strike partner for Danish marksman Rajko Lekic.

While Caraglio immediately entered the starting lineup for the Revolution’s meeting with Chivas USA on Aug. 6 – just three days after arriving in the United States – he did so without Lekic, who was sidelined with a fractured big toe on his right foot. Lekic missed a total of three games as Caraglio partnered a mix of other Revolution players including Benny Feilhaber, Kenny Mansally and Zack Schilawski.

Although Lekic was limited to a 58-minute performance, the duo finally had a chance to work together in this past weekend’s 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls and after the game both players had nothing but positive things to say about the partnership.

“It was very good (playing alongside Lekic),” Caraglio said through a translator. “We understand each other very well and it’s good to find a striker with similar characteristics.”

“He’s a good player, he’s a strong player and he’s scoring goals,” Lekic said of Caraglio. “He played very good and we speak the same language (Spanish), so that’s easy. We are pretty much thinking soccer the same way, so that’s nice.”

At the present time, the 22-year-old Caraglio speaks very little English having spent the early part of his career in his homeland of Argentina. But communication isn’t an issue with the 30-year-old Lekic, who picked up Spanish during his two-year stint with Xerex from 2004-06.

The benefits of their mutual understanding were felt almost instantly by Caraglio, who scored his first two MLS goals in the 15th and 37th minutes against New York.

“Clearly when you score two goals, you’ve done well,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “He’s getting stronger and stronger. The two goals are the icing on the cake, but you see his quality.

“People are not quite sure how to handle him at the present time,” Nicol continued. “If they get too tight, they realize he’s big and strong. If they stand off him – like the first goal (against New York) – then he can whip it around you and put it in the back of the net.”

Caraglio and Lekic have similar qualities – they’re both aerial threats standing at 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-1, respectively – and the duo is unafraid to mix things up physically when necessary. But Caraglio’s impressive holdup ability and distribution play could be the biggest benefits for Lekic as he searches for the freedom to make use of his predatory instincts inside the box.

“It’s a big difference when you have two guys who can hold the ball and are a threat,” said Nicol. “It makes the opposition take a step back and obviously gets us a step forward further up the field. So what we’ve seen so far is pretty good and we’re looking for it to get better and better.”