By Danny Picard
FOXBORO -- Ilija Stolica signed with the New England Revolution in lateJuly, but didnt make his first start until Saturday night against the HoustonDynamo at Gillette Stadium.
And judging by the smile on coach Steve Nicols face whenStolica approached the sideline after being subbed out of Saturdays game inthe 77th minute, the Revs are more than happy to have the 31-year-old Serbianstriker on board for the stretch run.
Stolica scored the only goal in New Englands 1-0 win overHouston on Saturday, a game that looked destined for a scoreless stalematethrough the first 60 minutes.
Throughout the game, we had plenty of opportunities to dothings in the final third, but the final pass wasnt there, or somebody made abad decision, said Nicol. We had enough of the ball in the final third, we justdidnt use it well enough.
There were only four total shots on goal in the first half,with each team having two, but the scoring chances were minimal. In the secondhalf, there was only one shot on net, and that was Stolicas goal in the 62ndminute.
Revs midfielder Sainey Nyassi found Stolica wide open at thetop of the box and put a pass into the middle of the field, where Stolicakicked the pass up in the air and one-timed a low shot on its way down, whichbeat Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall to the left corner of the net.
I think for any striker its important to have a quickreaction, said Stolica after New Englands 1-0 win. You only have one moment,and if you take it, you score.
It was a tough game, added Stolica. I think it was notmaybe a nice game to watch, but we needed that one, and I think we deserved itmore than them to score that one goal. And I was also knowing it myself thatthe team who scored first would win for sure.
Stolica made his Revolution debut last Saturday against D.C.United, but he came in off the bench. Against Houston, he started at forwardwith fellow Serbian Marko Perovic.
So far, the Revs are 2-0 with Stolica in the lineup.
You can see the experience he has, you know, the way heholds people off, and just a lot of different, a lot of small stuff thatprobably goes unnoticed, said Nicol after the game. But it makes a hugedifference.
With the Revolution attempting to make a late-season playoffrun, theyll need Stolica to continue to make the same type of difference hemade on Saturday against the Dynamo.
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard