FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Two of the New England Revolution’s top three scorers in 2011 were midfielders.
While it was nice to get that kind of production out of Shalrie Joseph (eight goals) and Benny Feilhaber (four goals), the underlying concern is that the Revs didn’t receive enough of a contribution from their forward line. Danish striker Rajko Lekic scored six goals in 23 appearances after joining the Revolution in April, although two of those goals were from the penalty spot. Milton Caraglio – the Revolution’s first-ever Designated Player – struck three times in 12 appearances, including a brace against the New York Red Bulls.
Of New England’s 38 goals scored last season – the third-lowest total in the league – only 13 were scored by forwards, so it’s no surprise head coach Jay Heaps has indicated one of his primary targets this offseason will be players who can find the back of the net.
Forwards (Diego Fagundez, Ryan Kinne, Kenny Mansally, Zack Schilawski, *Milton Caraglio, *Nate Jaqua, *Rajko Lekic)
The Revs head toward 2012 with some massive question marks at the forward position.
The aforementioned duo of Caraglio and Lekic represented the preferred pairing in the late stages of last season, at times combining to good effect at the top of New England’s 4-4-2 formation. Caraglio’s addition in August appeared to take some of the strain off Lekic, who spent much of his first few months in Foxborough toiling in an unfamiliar role as a lone striker.
But the twosome’s combined return of nine goals in 35 appearances fell short of expectations despite the fact that the Revs were improved (1-1-3) in the five matches in which Caraglio and Lekic starting alongside each other.
As of mid-December, the status of their future in Foxborough is undecided. The Revs declined the purchase option on the on-loan Caraglio’s contract, while they declined to exercise the 2012 option on Lekic’s deal. Those moves didn’t necessarily bring an end to their Revolution tenures, however, as the club is currently trying to renegotiate to bring both Caraglio and Lekic back under different terms.
Any potential signings at the forward position are likely dependent on how the Caraglio and Lekic situations pan out, but one move to bring in a target man with MLS experience is already taking shape. The Revs selected former Chicago Fire, LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and Seattle Sounders FC forward Nate Jaqua in Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Process and are hopeful they can sign the 30-year-old in the near future. Jaqua has 41 goals in 197 career MLS appearances.
One player whose Revolution future is already secure is 16-year-old phenom Diego Fagundez, who burst onto the scene late last season with two goals and one assist in six appearances. Although Fagundez started three straight games in October – after the Revs had been eliminated from playoff contention – Heaps has indicated a desire not to thrust the youngster into a consistent starting role right away.
Zack Schilawski returns for a third season in New England after a bit of a sophomore slump saw the 24-year-old register just one goal in 25 appearances last year, while Kenny Mansally is also back after failing to find the back of the net in 25 appearances of his own split between midfield and forward.
Rounding out the current crop of forwards is Ryan Kinne, who played just one minute in his rookie season but can play on either wing or up top.