Ilija Stolica, Marko Perovic celebrate goal

State of the Revs: Forwards

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Plenty went wrong for the New England Revolution in 2010.

Throughout the season, head coach Steve Nicol lamented untimely mistakes and his young side’s struggles in maintaining possession – not to mention an absurd 182 man-games lost because of injuries – factors which all contributed to the Revs conceding a league-high 50 goals and missing out on the postseason.

Yet the issue which was often most scrutinized was the Revolution’s lack of scoring, as the club registered just 32 goals to establish a club-record low in the category. The Revs were shut out 11 times in 30 regular-season games, while they managed multiple goals just nine times.

So after taking a look at the Revolution’s goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders earlier this week, I’ll close out my evaluation of the club’s roster with an assessment of those charged with the primary task of putting the ball in the back of the net: the forwards.

Forwards (Kheli Dube, Kenny Mansally, Marko Perovic, Zack Schilawski, Ilija Stolica)

After mixing and matching forward combinations through much of the spring and summer months, Nicol settled on the Serbian pairing of Marko Perovic and Ilija Stolica for the second half of the 2010 season after Stolica signed in late July. The combo worked to decent effect as the Revs scored 14 goals in the 11 matches in which Perovic and Stolica started alongside each other up top.

Both return for the 2011 season, but Perovic is a natural midfielder and the Revs would likely prefer he return to the left wing under ideal circumstances. The Revolution’s 2010 Most Valuable Player led the team with six regular-season goals – the lowest total to ever top the Revs’ scoring chart – but three of those strikes came direct from set pieces.

Kheli Dube, Kenny Mansally and Zack Schilawski provide three more intriguing forward options, although the trio struggled with consistency in 2010.

Dube finished the season with two goals and a team-leading five assists, although both goals came while the Zimbabwean was filling in for Sainey Nyassi on the right wing. When the season ended, Dube had scored two goals in four appearances as a right midfielder, while he’d gone goalless in 16 appearances as a forward.

Mansally has spent the first three years of his MLS career bouncing back and forth between forward and midfield, with the young Gambian’s stated preference to be on the left wing. His 2010 season started with a bang, coming off the bench to score twice and lead the Revs to a 2-0 win over D.C. United on April 3 at RFK Stadium, earning MLS player of the week and goal of the week honors in the process. But Mansally scored just once more in his next 19 appearances – which were split between forward and midfield – and finished the campaign with three goals.

Like Mansally, first-round draft pick Schilawski could not have started the 2010 season any better. After making his professional debut in the season opener against the LA Galaxy, Schilawski had a dream home debut two weeks later by scoring a hat trick in a 4-1 thrashing of Toronto FC on April 10 at Gillette Stadium. He added two more goals by the end of May and was on pace to break the MLS rookie goal-scoring record. Schilawski eventually cooled off, however, and despite a hard-working approach, finished the season scoreless in his last 14 appearances.

Technically, both Shalrie Joseph and Diego Fagundez could be listed as potential forwards, as well, but I’ve kept them off for separate reasons. Joseph scored a team-leading eight goals while serving as a makeshift forward in 2009, but the dominant midfielder is too important for the Revs in the middle of the field for him to be playing anywhere else. Meanwhile, Fagundez turns 16 on Feb. 14 and likely still has plenty of developing to do before he’s ready to step onto a professional field as either an attacking midfielder or forward.

All told, Revolution forwards combined for 17 goals in 2010, plus the two scored by Dube while playing as a right midfielder. As a total, that doesn’t seem like an awful haul, but the Revs will undoubtedly be in search of both better service and better finishing in 2011.