No one is more eager for a New England Revolution turnaround than the club’s second-year forward, Zach Schilawski.
Remembered in MLS circles for becoming the first-ever rookie to score a hat trick in his club’s home opener, the goals for Schilawski dried up as fast as the New England Revolution’s 2010 season went south. He netted his five MLS goals by May and never found the back of the net again in league play.
Only two MLS teams scored fewer goals than the Revolution’s 32 goals in 2010: Chivas USA (31) and D.C. United (21).
“Definitely it was a bit frustrating last season,” Schilawski told MLSsoccer.com. “Things weren’t going great, the team’s not scoring lot of goals and the pressure starts to mount. A lot of times, strikers have the weight on their shoulders to score goals – which is fair enough – but it takes 11 guys to score goals and keep balls out of the net.”
[inline_node:302255]The Revs of 2010 were a team that couldn’t hold onto possession and were not quick enough transitioning into the attack and providing service to their strikers. Management has sought to address the misgivings this offseason and Schilawski says that the improvements are already evident in training camp.
The North Carolina native netted his first goal of the 2011 preseason on Sunday in a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew. New England have two more games against MLS opposition this week when they take on the Crew and the Houston Dynamo in the Atlanta Pro Soccer Challenge.
“All the things we struggled with [last year] have been a major emphasis, as far as keeping possession in attack as well as defending and keeping a higher line,” Schilawski said. “This is a team that is very enthusiastic about improving and getting better. Hopefully we’ll be able to get it done.”
The 23-year-old Schilawski noted that scoring chances in the pros, unlike in college, are at a premium, but said he has made the adjustment to MLS.
“There’s a lot more emphasis on getting yourself in the box and being big and strong and holding guys off and getting your head on things and figuring out a way to score goals,” he said. “You have to be sharp mentally, pick your spots and be strong enough to get in there and put your chest out and put your nose in front of goal.”
The question for Schilawski heading into 2011 will be how much time he gets to see with the first team. Although he would seem a good fit in the big man, small man pairing with Ilija Stolica – or what Schilawski calls a salt-and-pepper combination – there is a wild card that could impact his role.
“In my situation, it’s what they want to do with Marko [Perovic],” Schilawski said. “Do they want to play him in midfield or up top? We’ve explored all those options in preseason. … I’ve started some games and [have also] come off the bench. There’s a lot of competition for spots right now all over the field – strikers included.”
Schilawski said manager Steve Nicol wants him to be more calculating on the field and to use his hustle and hard-working style – he claims he can “run for days” – in the most efficient ways to maximize results.
“I need to keep improving and keep raising the bar individually,” Schilawski said. “It’ll be easier to do that this year.”