Our friends over at New England Soccer Today are once again flexing their muscles and showing off their superior sources, and today's piece does not disappoint. Few people were probably expecting Monsef Zerka to return this season, but most were operating under the assumption that the front office was at least making some attempt to bring him back at a reduced salary. Most were wrong.
Sean Donahue is reporting that Zerka was never actually in Jay Heaps' plans for the 2012 season. According to Donahue, "the team never had serious discussions to try to bring Zerka back." So unlike the cases of Rajko Lekic and Milton Caraglio, who had some negotiations with the Revs after their options were declined, Monsef Zerka has essentially been an afterthought since December.
Let's stop for a moment and review some stats. Monsef Zerka joined the team late in the 2011 season but made his impact immediately, scoring a goal on his debut in a 4-4 draw with the Philadelphia Union. He went on to score two goals and tally an assist in seven appearances down the season's stretch run, showcasing a level of class on the ball that had been missing on the wings since the heyday of Steve Ralston.
Now let's dig a bit deeper. Although Zerka never actually went a full 90 minutes in a Revolution uniform (I think), he managed 551 minutes in the 2011 season. Adding together his goals and assists (and counting them equally as 1 point each), the Moroccan managed a points-per-90 ratio of 0.528. That's good for the best points-per-90 ratio on the entire team for the 2011 season, barring players who logged less than 500 minutes (Diego Fagundez had a 0.859 ratio in just 314 minutes, and Marko Perovic's ratio was also great, but he is obviously now inconsequential to this discussion).
The rest of the team leaders in that category are as follows: Benny Feilhaber (0.483), Milton Caraglio (0.454), Rajko Lekic (0.34), and Shalrie Joseph (0.283). Not only was Zerka the most productive player in a Revolution uniform last season (again, barring Diego), but two of the 2011 top-five are gone for 2012. The Revs next-most productive wide midfielder? Chris Tierney at 0.247. Inspiring.
This would be a lot easier to take if the Revs camp had sat down with Zerka and discussed future options, and the winger had set his price too high. If it was a business decision, the fans could be justifiably upset about it, but there's an element of logic and a sense of "hey, at least they gave it a shot." Here, though, the Revs gave up. They somehow decided that last season's most productive offensive player was not only expendable, he was unwanted. This after they also let go of their two first-choice striker options in Caraglio and Lekic.
It's tough to see this in a positive light. I want to sit here and say that Jay Heaps has a plan that will make sense, but the fact is that on February 1st, with the first preseason trip of 2012 already in the books, the Revs are sitting at a roster of just 22 players and most of them are retreads from a 2011 team that we'd all be better off forgetting about. Addition by subtraction can often be beneficial in sports, but subtracting the cream of the crop without any prospect of replacing it hardly seems a sound strategy.
In fact, it seems to be a decidedly unambitious strategy. The Revs are an MLS original who have become the butt of all the worst MLS jokes, and their decline has been as catastrophic as it has been sudden. Without a healthy dose of ambition, 2012 will become yet another exercise in futility for a club that is floundering in mediocrity and market obscurity. Decisions like this don't give any of us a reason to hold out for better days.