FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - If it was a dynamic attacking presence which the New England Revolution lacked entering the 2010 preseason, the club may have found exactly what it was looking for in the form of Serbian midfielder Marko Perovic. The former Red Star Belgrade and FC Basel winger made his first MLS start last Saturday night against the San Jose Earthquakes, and although the Revs were shut out in a 2-0 loss at Buck Shaw Stadium, it wasn’t for lack of effectiveness from Perovic.
The 26-year-old was active from the opening whistle in San Jose, using a combination of size, quickness and creativity to create chances for both himself and his teammates.
“He’s dynamic, for sure,” said rookie forward Zack Schilawski, who saw Perovic’s class up close and personal while playing alongside him against the Earthquakes. “He’s dangerous with the ball at his feet, so I think he’ll help us once he gets acclimated to the team.”
Despite his impressive performance in his first MLS start, it’s safe so assume that Perovic hasn’t quite reached his peak fitness level considering he was just able to start training with his new teammates last week. Not to mention the fact that he arrived in the United States from Switzerland just 12 days ago and hasn’t fully adjusted to the time change, a task made all the more difficult by last weekend’s cross-country flight to San Jose.
With that in mind, head coach Steve Nicol believes that Perovic has only shown a glimpse of what he’ll be able to accomplish at full strength.
“I think he showed in flashes what he’s capable of doing,” Nicol said of Perovic’s performance in San Jose. “It was away from home, we [were] on a tight field, there was not a lot of space and not a lot of room. [Plus], we haven’t gotten him the ball often enough and we haven’t gotten him the ball in positions where he’s going to hurt them. But you can see what he’s all about and what he can bring to the table, so we’ll just go from there.”
While Nicol lamented the fact that the Revolution didn’t utilize Perovic to his full extent - which will come in time as a comfort level is established - the Serb proved that if necessary, he’s capable of creating chances for himself.
On one occasion midway through the first half, Perovic received a throw-in from Chris Tierney on the left flank. With one swift motion, he received the ball and turned inside - eluding two defenders in the process - and set himself up for a long-range shot. After one more dip of the shoulder to lose another defender, Perovic unleashed a rocket from 20 yards out with his right foot - his weaker foot - and missed scoring his first MLS goal by just a few inches as the ball sailed wide of the right post.
Minutes later, Perovic was at it again, this time using a deceptive burst of speed to push the ball around his marker and sprint into open space down the left side. Although the move was slowed down in the box when the ball was momentarily caught up in his feet, it was a prime example of the attacking flair Perovic can bring to a team which scored a club-record-low 33 goals last season.
With that type of ability, Perovic is sure to draw attention from opposing defenses. And the more the opposition focuses on Perovic, the more space opens up for his teammates.
“He’s dangerous,” said Schilawski. “Once teams figure that out, he’ll get a lot of attention, which will help us. He’ll be one more threat up top.”
While the rest of MLS is figuring out just how dynamic the Revolution’s newest addition is, Perovic himself will be continuing to acclimate to his new teammates and his new surroundings. It’s only a matter of time before he adjusts to life in the U.S. and forms a comfort level with the players around him.
“Once he [clicks with his teammates] - which I think he will pretty soon - once we get that going and get some more combinations, I think we’ll have a pretty solid attack going,” said Schilawski.
In one major way, Perovic already fits in with his new club. Versatility has always been a hallmark of Nicol’s players - think Shalrie Joseph, Steve Ralston and Tierney - and the Serb proved he’s certainly not a one-trick pony on Saturday night in San Jose.
Oddly enough, Perovic seemed to play every position in the attacking third of the field except for his most natural position - left midfield. Touted as a left-sided player upon his arrival, it was also stated on many occasions that Perovic could play as a central attacking midfielder if necessary.
But against the Earthquakes, Perovic started as a withdrawn forward behind Schilawski, extending his repertoire to the front line. Later in the match, he slotted into a right midfield role before finishing up his 90-minute performance playing as a central attacking midfielder when the Revs went with a five-man midfield.
Oh yeah - he also took the Revolution’s corner kicks and free kicks.
According to Nicol, it doesn’t matter where Perovic plays as long as he’s in the attacking third.
“You want him going forward,” he said after training on Tuesday. “Obviously, when we go behind we have to mix things up to try and spark us a wee bit. So that’s how he ended up moving around a little bit.”
If Nicol was looking for a spark, he may have found it in Perovic.