FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Although he’s yet to take the field in a New England Revolution uniform, Marko Perovic has already proven he has great timing.
The 26-year-old Serbian midfielder was signed by the Revs on March 26 after impressing in a week-long trial from March 11-17 while the team trained in North Carolina. After receiving all of the necessary paperwork – the last of which was his U.S. P-1 Visa – Perovic boarded a plane to the United States on Thursday and is expected to join his new teammates for training on Friday morning, just in time for the Revolution’s home opener on Saturday night against Toronto FC.
Perovic is expected to provide immediate help in the attacking third, where the Revs are currently dealing with the absence of top forwards Taylor Twellman and Edgaras Jankauskas because of injury. Combined with the offseason departure of veteran playmaker Steve Ralston, the need for some creativity going toward goal was apparent – especially considering the Revs scored a club-record-low 33 goals last season.
“He’s the kind of guy that goes forward, he’s not a guy that goes [backward],” said head coach Steve Nicol in his description of Perovic. “He wants to go one way, which obviously we need a wee bit more of at the present time.”
“He’s just quality going forward,” Nicol added. “He likes going at people, he’s good on the ball and he sees the game well.”
The pedigree Perovic brings to Foxborough is first-rate, having played with some of the top clubs in Europe. He began his professional career with Serbian Superliga club Red Star Belgrade, where he made 90 appearances and scored 10 goals from 2000-08. Most recently, he patrolled the midfield for Swiss powerhouse FC Basel, scoring eight goals in 28 appearances and playing against likes of Barcelona (Spain), Sporting (Portugal) and Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) in the 2008-09 UEFA Champions League.
Perovic also spent time with Serbia’s Under-21 national team.
Although Perovic has spent the majority of his career as a left-sided midfielder, Nicol has stated that he would consider deploying the Serbian as a central attacking midfielder in certain situations, playing behind the forwards in a five-man midfield.
“He can slot into the left-hand side of midfield and go at fullbacks and generally go forward, or if we play five he can play off the front two,” Nicol explained. “We didn’t really have that type of player that we were more than comfortable with to do that (before signing Perovic).”
But Nicol is quick to squash the idea that the Revs will immediately go to a five-man midfield just because Perovic can play as an attacking midfielder.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Nicol said when asked if Perovic’s arrival meant an imminent switch to a 3-5-2. “It just gives us an option. If things are not quite working out the way we’re playing at the present time, and we have an option to go a different route, then it’s always good to have players that can adapt to whatever route you’ve got.”
“That’s what I’m saying,” he continued. “If we wanted to go to the five, then he can slot in there easily, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to.”
While Perovic will participate in his first official training session as a member of the Revolution on Friday morning and will be available for selection for the home opener against Toronto on Saturday night, Nicol does not anticipate naming him to the starting lineup, claiming it would be “unrealistic” to expect Perovi? to step off the plane and be ready to start.
“He’s been training, but not full-go like normal professionals,” Nicol said. “Obviously he can’t train properly with [FC Basel] in case he gets injured. So he’s been doing some work, but he’s not going to be match-sharp.”
Nicol does plan to have his newest attacking weapon available on the bench, however, and said that he would hand Perovic his MLS debut in the right situation.
“If we need him, we can bring him on,” Nicol said. “If we don’t, then we’re probably better off leaving him.”
Whenever it is that Perovic makes his MLS debut, he’ll already have the respect of his teammates, who saw the class he brings to the field during his time in North Carolina. In addition to four training sessions with the Revs, Perovic actually suited up for a pair of preseason matches with New England. He played a total of 125 minutes, starting on the left side of midfield against the Charlotte Eagles and Duke University.
One player particularly impressed by Perovic’s contributions was Chris Tierney, who has been the Revolution’s starting left midfielder in the first two games of the season and notched an assist on Kenny Mansally’s game-winning goal against D.C. United.
“He’s quality – he’s straight quality,” said Tierney. “He’s played in some of the top leagues in Europe, he’s got a great left foot and he’s really technical. He’s going to add a lot to this team going forward, for sure.”