FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Head coach Steve Nicol will be absolutely delighted that Zack Schilawski became just the third rookie in MLS history to record a hat trick in the Revolution’s 4-1 win over Toronto FC on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
Just not necessarily for the obvious reasons.
While Nicol will surely be thrilled with the on-field results of Schilawski’s three-goal outburst and the club’s emphatic victory over an Eastern Conference opponent, he’ll be just as pleased that Schilawski’s headline-grabbing performance drew the focus away from his own historic achievement.
With Saturday night’s result, Nicol became just the third coach in Major League Soccer history to record 100 career regular-season victories, joining an elite club which – in addition to Nicol – includes only Seattle Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid (126) and current U.S. National Team head coach Bob Bradley (124).
Nicol also holds the distinction of being the only coach to record 100 career victories with one team, as both Schmid and Bradley accomplished the feat with a combination of multiple clubs.
It was 11 years ago when Nicol recorded his first career win, a 2-1 triumph over the MetroStars on Oct. 2, 1999. That was during a brief stint as the Revolution’s interim head coach, as he guided the Revs to a pair of victories to close out the season before Fernando Clavijo took over the head coaching position prior to the 2000 campaign.
But Nicol’s success caught the attention of the New England brass, and he was brought back on a full-time basis in 2002. That year, he led the Revs to their first of four MLS Cup appearances and earned MLS Coach of the Year honors in the process.
While an MLS Cup title has eluded Nicol to this point, he has guided the Revolution to a pair of trophies – the 2007 U.S. Open Cup and SuperLiga 2008.
Despite his astounding accomplishments, Nicol consistently shies away from talking about himself, and that was no different following his 100th win.
“We’ve got a game next week, so let’s hope it’s 101,” he said. “That’s all I’m bothered about.”
While Nicol kept the focus on his players rather than his personal achievement, the athletes themselves were more than willing to talk about their beloved coach.
Sainey Nyassi – who contributed to the historic win with an assist and the Revolution’s fourth goal – has developed under Nicol since arriving in New England as an unpolished 18-year-old in 2007.
“He knows how to take care of young players, how to talk to young players and how to incorporate them and get them used to the game,” he said. “We listen to him and do what he wants us to do and that’s it.”
Third-year forward Kheli Dube – who contributed a pair of assists on Saturday night – credits Nicol with making his transition to the professional game as smooth as possible.
“As soon as you walk in the first day, you know he’s a great coach because he makes you feel welcome and he makes you feel at home,” he said. “He’s always relaxed and it’s easy to go and talk to him. Sometimes when things are not going well, he’s the very first guy to come up to you and let you know what you need to do to make things better.”
“Congratulations to him,” Dube continued. “He’s a great man.”
As for strategy, Nyassi believes that it’s Nicol’s uncomplicated approach to the game which makes him such an effective tactician.
“He always tells us that the game is simple,” he said. “If you can pass the ball, that’s it. You connect passes.”
“He’s really a great coach,” Nyassi concluded. “We love him.”