New England rookie Zack Schilawski dreamed about his first professional goal from the moment he walked across the podium after hearing his name called in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.
“I've been thinking about the first one for a long time now, ever since I found out I was going to have a team to play on,” Schilawski told MLSsoccer after New England's 4-1 win over Toronto FC on Saturday night. “As a striker, you want to score goals.”
The moment finally arrived when Schilawski collected his first MLS goal two minutes after halftime and wheeled off to celebrate. After play resumed, he quickly discovered the initial tally wasn't enough to quell his appetite for more goals.
Schilawski's second and third MLS goals followed in short order to make him the only player in MLS history to score three times on his home debut. Schilawski also joined former Columbus midfielder Brian Maisonneuve and former New England (and current Seattle) forward Pat Noonan as the only rookies to grab a hat trick in their first MLS season.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the rare feat is how Schilawski accomplished it. The Wake Forest product found space inside the penalty area and timed his runs to perfection in order to slide home two relatively simple chances from close range for his first and third strikes.
Those types of goals are generally the dominion of more experienced players who can anticipate when and where the cross will arrive, but Schilawski credited the service from Sainey Nyassi (on his first goal) and Kheli Dube (on his third) for setting up chances he couldn't spurn.
“Those were two great balls in terms of weight and placement, so it was easy for me,” Schilawski said.
Finding the right spot isn't the only way Schilawski flashed traits usually found in a more experienced striker. Revolution coach Steve Nicol praised Schilawski's second goal -- fueled by an opportunistic decision to pressure TFC central defender Nick Garcia in his defensive third and sparked by Garcia's ensuing turnover -- because he took his breakaway calmly when others may have spurned the gilt-edged opportunity by acting hastily.
“When you're a forward, if you get chances, you have to finish them,” Dube said. “Today, Zack did it. It's a good way for him to get the first goals of his career.”
As he glanced at the match ball from his first professional hat trick, Schilawski pondered the route to more goals as his rookie season progresses. After leading the Revolution in goals during the preseason and securing his first three strikes in MLS play, Schilawski said he believes that he can transform into a consistent goal scorer at the MLS level.
“I'm confident,” Schilawski said. “I know I can score goals. The difference is proving it to everyone else and having everyone else have confidence that you can do it against a MLS team, not a USL team or in an exhibition game.”