New England Revolution: Ilija Stolica

Will win streak, new players spark Revs?

July, 30, 2010
7/30/10
7:02
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Revolution announced Friday that they signed two new players to the team -- Serbian forward Ilija Stolica and Brazilian forward/midfielder Robert Linck. But neither player is expected to be in uniform Saturday afternoon in the team’s first-ever game against the expansion Philadelphia Union at PPL Park in nearby Chester.

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. The Revolution (4-9-2) are tied for points (14) with the Union (4-8-2) and each team is out of playoff contention as their records presently stand.

Stolica and Linck have been signed to MLS contracts, according to the team. Stolica’s signing is pending the receipt of his United States P1 Visa, and he will occupy one of the team’s international roster spots. Linck’s signing will be finalized upon receipt of his International Transfer Certificate. A U.S. permanent resident, Linck will be considered a domestic player on the Revolution’s roster, according to information released by the team.

The additions couldn’t have come soon enough, according to goalkeeper Matt Reis, who praised his teammates for their efforts but lamented the lack of available players currently on the team.

“It’s not ideal,’’ Reis said. “Every year you want to be at least clicking at 18 and not seeing whether or not you have 18 players healthy and ready to play. I think we did the best with what we have right now. Ideally, we’d like to be able to pick the best players and the players who are in the best form, but right now we’ve been patching it together and it seems to be working.

“But it’s going to be tough because Philly is a team we don’t know much about. It’s a team that’s just been put together; it’s a team that looked really good in their international match against Manchester United; and they’ve got a team that really wants to run.’’

The Revolution have been on a roll lately with four straight victories, but only one of those wins have come in the league with the rest coming in SuperLiga. The team will resume SuperLiga action Wednesday night against Puebla FC at Gillette Stadium.

Coach Steve Nicol said the victories -- four 1-0 wins -- have been reviving considering the team’s difficulties so far. But he admits the team’s league play has to improve if they are going to make a playoff run.

“I think it’s always good to win,’’ Nicol said. “We are not going to lie -- we want MLS points; we want league points. The choice between nine league points or three SuperLiga wins, we’d gladly take the league points. But at the same time, the situation that we were in, we were not confident -- things were tough -- so to get results back-to-back-to-back-to-back is good for everybody. It gives us a wee bit more strength when it’s needed.’’

Reis, who has been in goal for the past six games after returning from off-season surgeries, said he’s not sure whether the SuperLiga will be a help to the team over the long haul.

“Every year it’s the same thing,’’ Reis said. “You come to the hardest part of the season in the middle of summer and you are playing all of these games for all of these competitions and international games, so sometimes it can hurt you. I think that when we won the SuperLiga [in 2008], we won one game after it. It’s still yet to be seen whether it’s going to help us or hurt us, so right now we need more players.’’

One such player who has helped the team in recent games is second-year defender Darrius Barnes, who has been in the starting team those past four games during the win streak.

“To come into this team is probably the best thing for me because Stevie [Nicol] gave me the opportunity to play last year,’’ Barnes said. “Just getting that experience and playing all of those games and getting my teammates’ trust has definitely helped out my confidence as far as being able to play in the league, and hopefully I can continue to grow,’’ he said.

Barnes, who came back into the starting lineup as Cory Gibbs was going out with a thigh injury, said he thinks he is continuing to grow as a player still at the beginning of his career.

“I think so,’’ Barnes said. “Of course the injuries have held me back a little bit as far as getting a lot better, but I feel I’m a lot smarter as far as decision making and where to put my guys, getting people behind the ball. It just comes with a learning experience, game in and game out just taking little things away and just listening to the veterans. I definitely think you can get a little better each year and if you just continue to put in the work and the technique and tactics and stuff, it’s going to get there as well.’’

Nicol, who now has the option of using Barnes, Gibbs, Emmanuel Osei and Pat Phelan all at central defense, has more options at this position than at any time this season. He would not reveal who he planned to have in his starting lineup, as changing a winning team in soccer is normally considered a taboo.

Reis said that the time had come for the team to get itself together in league play.

“Our backs are up against the wall in so many different ways,’’ Reis said. “Philly’s tied with us on points and it’s a huge game; it’s a six-pointer. There are no excuses. We just have to get it done now. We’ve dug ourselves quite a big hole in qualifying for the playoffs. It’s not unattainable. It’s going to take a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work.’’

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