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In Revolution goal, young keeper Djordje Petrovic has been zeroed in

Goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic will try to backstop the effort as the Revolution push for a playoff spot with five game to go.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic might have been destined to play for a team called the Revolution, considering his namesake, known as Karadjordje (“Black Djordje”), led a 19th century revolt that brought independence to Serbia.

“I would have to ask my parents whether I was exactly named after Karadjordje, but he definitely was an important figure for the Serbian people,” Petrovic said via an interpreter. “I’m trying to be Djordje Petrovic, the goalkeeper that would try to match the importance and influence of Karadjordje.”

The Revolution’s Petrovic is on track for recognition, helping the team compile seven shutouts in its last 13 games going into a visit to the New York Red Bulls Saturday. Since joining the team on a transfer from FK Cukaricki, Petrovic has played 16 matches, the equivalent of less than half a season, yet he is within three shutouts of Matt Reis’s single-season team record of 10 (2005, ‘06, ‘07).

“It’s not just him, it’s the back line as well,” Revolution goalkeeper coach Kevin Hitchcock said. “The last game, he won us the game; we won 3-nil [over New York City FC], but it’s all down to him. He makes big saves in big games.”


Against NYCFC, Petrovic came up with three point-blank stops to preserve the lead, then tipped a late drive by Talles Magno over the bar to clinch the shutout.

“The saves he makes, those are some of the hardest saves for some goalkeepers,” Revolution defender Andrew Farrell said, “and he makes them look easy.”

Petrovic’s career is moving fast. At 22, he already has performed once for Serbia (earning a shutout). And he is drawing favorable comparisons to former Revolution star Matt Turner, who joined Arsenal FC on a $7 million transfer.

“He’s come in and we don’t miss Matt,” Hitchcock said. “That’s the biggest compliment I can give him.


“I don’t really look at the shutouts, the clean sheets. For this team, Matt was an unbelievable goalkeeper and if we can get Djordje anywhere near Matt consistently, then we’ve got ourselves another great goalkeeper.

“He’s more than OK, he’s done exceptional, and we’re going to keep pushing him to push those boundaries.”

Though Petrovic is among the youngest starting goalkeepers in the league, he seems like an old-fashioned, stay-at-home keeper, seldom leaving the goal area to challenge opponents, instead patiently staying back, using his size to block angles.

“He’s 6 foot 5,” Hitchcock said. “And he can come for everything. And he’s confident. I’ll encourage that.”

Hitchcock does not buy the old-fashioned label.

“Goalkeeping is more than shot-stopping,” Hitchcock said. “In the modern game, you have to have the whole package. You have to have every available bit of quality a goalkeeper needs to play professional football, and he’s got that. He’s got a lot to learn and he’s getting there and making great strides.”

There is plenty to work on. Petrovic believes he must improve playing the ball at his feet and also getting past the language barrier, which can impair communication with defenders, crucial to positioning.

He also must deal with the constant flux in spacing with teammates, a difficult challenge because of the Revolution’s attack-first style. Center backs Farrell and Henry Kessler often push up well into the center circle, leaving significant room behind them. If the tactic fails, the opposition can break free, as the Los Angeles Galaxy did in a 2-1 win over the Revolution last month.


Though Petrovic has performed well, the Revolution have struggled to remain in playoff position. They seem to be making subtle adjustments with Petrovic in the lineup, sacrificing offense to stay more compact defensively.

With Turner in goal for more than 100 games over four-plus years, the Revolution never had more than six shutouts in a season and played to eight 0-0 ties. In the last 12 games, with Petrovic starting, they have topped Turner’s best season for shutouts, but have played to four scoreless draws.

The key is finding balance between attacking and defending as the Revolution (9-9-11, 38 points) ramp up for a playoff run in the final five games. Should they advance, Petrovic would be their youngest postseason starting goalkeeper.

“Yes, I am 22 years old and I could improve in all segments of my play,” Petrovic said. “But I have been playing [professionally] since I was 18.”

The Balkans often produce proficient young goalkeepers, such as Milutin “Sole” Soskic, who was 18 playing for Partizan Belgrade in the inaugural 1956 UEFA Champions Cup, blanking eventual champion Real Madrid, 3-0, in the semifinals, then winning an Olympic gold medal with Yugoslavia in Rome at 22.

Soskic, who died last month, became US national team goalkeeper coach under the Revolution’s Bruce Arena, guiding Brad Friedel, Tim Howard, and Tony Meola.

Petrovic has established a reputation with the Revolution and later this year could make his name playing for his country in the World Cup. Predrag Rajkovic (Mallorca) and Vanja Milinkovic-Savic (Torino) are among the favorites to start for Serbia, but Petrovic is contending for a backup spot. By the 2026 World Cup, Petrovic should be in the starting mix, and likely following Turner’s path to a lucrative Euro transfer.


“Experience is critically important for goalkeepers,” Arena said. “They generally reach their prime a lot later than field players, as we know. Probably around 30 years old. So, when you think about that, at 22 years old, he is in a pretty good position. He’s going to get much better.

“What more can we say? He is a real good one.”