In the fourth and final part of our series analyzing the Revolution by position, we look at the team’s forwards: Milton Caraglio, Kheli Dube, Diego Fagundez, Alan Koger, Rajko Lekic, Zack Schilawski,
Overview: Following Taylor Twellman’s retirement after the end of the 2010 season, one of the biggest questions swirling around Foxboro was this: who’s going to inherit the goalscorer’s role?
The Revolution went into the season with Ilija Stolica and Zack Schilawski as their primary poachers, but it wasn’t long before both fell out of favor with coach Steve Nicol.
Sensing the need to upgrade in the attacking third, the team scoured the international waters and brought in Danish striker Rajko Lekic from Silkeborg IF in April. With a documented history of goalscoring in his native Denmark (76 goals in 121 games), Lekic was supposed to be answer to the team’s scoring woes. But acting as the lone striker in Nicol’s possession-oriented 4-5-1, the emotional striker became visibly frustrated as the midfielders often failed to give him the service needed to put the ball in the back of the net.
It wasn’t until the one-striker shape was scrapped that Lekic eventually found the passes needed to force the issue inside the area. When the Revolution signed Argentine Milton Caraglio, a promising partnership was born, as Lekic finally had the hold up forward to play off and create more chances.
Meanwhile, Caraglio’s class and positioning instantly sharpened the attack as the summer drew to a close. But when Lekic was forced out due to injuries, the team enlisted the services of its youngest talent: 16-year-old Homegrown Player Diego Fagundez. The teenager was lightning in a bottle, and demonstrated the instincts and form of a player nearly double his age. In limited action, Fagundez made an impression, with two goals and an assist in six games.
While the spotlight shined on Lekic (six goals), Caraglio (three goals), and Fagundez (two goals), second-year striker Zack Schilawski (one goal) saw his role reduced from starter to late-game sub by the end of the season. Kheli Dube suffered through an injury-plagued campaign and was limited to only five substitute appearances. Third-round pick Alan Koger couldn’t crack the first team, but netted three goals in Reserve League and Open Cup competition.
Outlook: Although none of the strikers replicated Twellman’s prodigious strike rate, the combined efforts of Lekic, Caraglio, and Fagundez added potency to a stale attack down the stretch. Should the club pick up the options on Lekic and Caraglio, the duo figure to be the starting strikers going into 2012, with Fagundez’ development under close watch given his age and delicate frame (5-8, 125 lbs). Schilawski is a valuable backup, but the rosters spots inherited by him, Dube, and Koger could be up for grabs once the preseason arrives.
Bottom line: The front office should make it a priority to keep Lekic and Caraglio in the fold if they want to avoid the same scoring woes they suffered through during the first half of the 2011 season. Both have already proven they can perform in MLS, but neither will come cheap. That being the case, the Revolution must determine whether they want to open the checkbook for both or undertake another search for a striker of Twellman’s caliber. Given the limited scouting resources available to Revolution, the front office would be better off keeping the partnership intact rather than losing one -- or both -- and starting from scratch in 2012.
Brian O'Connell is covering the Revolution for ESPNBoston.com. He is the co-founder of New England Soccer Today (www.nesoccertoday.com), which covers professional soccer within New England. He can be reached at BOConnell21@aol.com.