The New England Revolution announced via press release yesterday that they had declined options on Serbian duo Marko Perovic and Ilija Stolica. Stolica had spent the last few months on loan at USL-Pro club FC New York while Perovic underwent season-ending knee surgery after injuring himself against Sporting KC in April. Each player had scored a goal in their limited appearances this season.
The move could be an indication of the Revs' commitment to bringing in a big foreign signing this summer. If the figures released by the MLS Players' Union are accurate, dropping the two of them not only frees up at least one international slot, but it gives New England $300k - $350k of salary cap space. A designated player only requires $335k.
On an individual level, it made sense that Stoli got the axe. Since the Rajko Lekic signing, the writing has really been on the wall for the former Partizan Belgrade man, and his $200k+ salary was prohibitive for a striker that only managed four goals in 16 league appearances. Even though the recent switch back to a two-striker setup could have opened another spot for him (without going into how I believe Stolica was the better fit for a lone striker role), things just never looked promising for him this season.
Dropping Perovic, on the other hand, sounds ridiculous. Last season's MVP was unarguably the Revolution's most dynamic attacking threat and releasing him over one season-ending injury is a hasty reaction at best, and the mistake of a bumbling fool at worst. Things aren't so black and white with Marko, however.
Frank Dell'Apa reported for the Globe that Marko Perovic asked the Revolution not to pick up his option. According to Dell'Apa, Revolution COO Brian Bilello confirmed this, and said that when Marko made that request, there was no way the organization was going to refuse him.
That's assuming Marko even made that request. In the same article, Dell'Apa quotes Perovic's agent, Dejan Drobnjak, as being surprised by the move and hoping the Revs would reconsider. So either Marko isn't talking with his agent much, or the Revs are trying to pull the wool over people's eyes. Given the recent frosty relationship between the organization and their fans, I can bet where the majority of opinion is going to lie on that one.
Let's assume that Marko actually wanted to leave. Is anyone surprised? He obviously enjoyed the embrace of the fanbase here in New England, but a few thousand adoring fans isn't worth the remainder of his soccer prime. He, like so many Revolution stars, is dealing with a flagging franchise, constant muscle strain issues, and an abusively physical league in MLS with absolutely zero consistency in officiating. How many times can you remember Perovic losing his mind over poor calls, or bad decisions from teammates? He never had the patience for this league, especially on a team intent on burying itself like New England is.
The glimmer of hope in this release is that the Revs might be able to lure in one or more game-changers. It might be too late to salvage this season, but perhaps it will give us more to look forward to next season. In reality, though, New England has to look like one of the most undesirable places to play in MLS right now. Furthermore, Marko certainly wasn't the only current Revolution player who has consistently and obviously made his discontent known on the field, which begs the question: if he really asked to leave, who will be next?