A couple of Revolution goalkeepers over the last two years proved too good to be true: Djordje Petrovic and Matt Turner departed to the Premier League with the MLS season still in progress.
The others have not been up to the task: Brad Knighton retired after a 16-year career; backups Earl Edwards Jr. and Jacob Jackson were thrown in with the Revolution in turmoil late last year; and finally, Tomas Vaclik, the most accomplished of the group, was released without getting a chance to perform.
Now the Revolution are hoping Henrich Ravas will become a difference-making keeper, and also that he will stick around long enough to help them compete for a title.
“The Premier League will always be my dream,” said Ravas, 26, who joined the Revolution this month on a $1.2 million transfer from Widzew Lodz in Poland. “But you can’t only say I am coming here as a steppingstone. I want to achieve something with New England. I’ve been welcomed by the club and feel we can do something big here. I’m concentrating on what’s happening now and how I can improve to help the team.”
Ravas left his home in Senica, Slovakia, 10 years ago to join Peterborough United in England. He performed for reserve teams and in the National League for five clubs (Peterborough, Boston United, Derby County, Gainsborough Trinity, Hartlepool United) before returning to Senica for a season, then becoming a regular at Widzew Lodz the last two seasons.
“In November, my agent sent a message that a club in MLS was looking for a keeper,” Ravas said. “And I saw what they had done with Matt Turner and Djordje Petrovic. I was also interested in America and MLS as a new challenge, as something to push my level, let’s say.
“I was really keen to come here. I’m happy to be working with [goalkeeping coach] Kevin Hitchcock and he will get the best from me.”
This is Ravas’s first experience outside Europe, and he is in the early stages of acclimatizing. He felt at home upon arriving in Boston for a physical exam, thanks to the climate — not like Florida.
“Boston, obviously, it’s cold, similar to Slovakia with the weather — snow, ice, and freezing weather,” Ravas said from Bradenton after making his debut in a 3-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls in the team’s preseason opener. “Florida, it is quite warm here. We don’t have many places in Europe this warm over the winter.”
As a youngster, Ravas played in goal in both soccer and hockey. His early exposure to the Bruins came from afar via defenseman Zdeno Chara, whose Trencin hometown is about an hour north of Senica.
But Ravas gave up hockey when he was 10, and much of his early soccer training consisted of parrying the free kicks of his brother, Frederik, five years his senior. Henrich displayed his ambition by moving to England at age 16.
“I struggled at the start,” Ravas recalled. “In Slovakia, families are quite close, so it was tough. But I’ve had lessons not everyone has the opportunity to get in life. It gave me a future.
“I had to start from zero in every aspect. No family, work your way up. Luckily, it worked for me. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t easy. But, for me, when I see a challenge, I want to overcome that challenge.
“I had a plan; I wanted to be a professional soccer player. It was League One, the setup there [Peterborough] wasn’t the best. I was never the most talented, but I always had that kind of determination. People thought I would come back to Slovakia after one year. I kind of proved everyone wrong.”
But Ravas needed a chance for regular playing time, and he found it in Poland.
“I developed a lot the last three years,” Ravas said. “My strengths are I’m kind of an on-the-line goalkeeper, I come for crosses. Shot-stopping, organizing in the 18-yard box. Big weaknesses were playing with feet.
“I developed the last few years; I worked on my weaknesses to become strengths. Before coming to Poland, I didn’t want to play under pressure. I had to adapt. I learned a lot, developed that aspect of the game, and I’m more comfortable with my feet and playing under pressure.”
Ravas has earned several Slovakian national team call-ups as a backup to Martin Dubravka (Newcastle United) and Marek Rodak (Fulham).
“To think I would be called up to the national team three or four years ago, I would think you were crazy, even though I believed,” Ravas said. “I haven’t made my debut yet. We have friendlies in March and I got the message to be ready for a chance.”
Slovakia, which has qualified for the European Championship in Germany June 14-July 14, will play host to Austria March 23 and visit Norway March 26. The Revolution are scheduled to meet the Chicago Fire March 23.
“You need to be ready for your chance,” Ravas said. “You have to be the best version of yourself and be ready any time. That comes with experience, being around soccer. I always want to be prepared and work hard to give myself the best chance.
“My [last] year in England, I went on loan and it was a bad year. But I kept my head and tried to be ready, went back to Slovakia, then Poland, and now I’m here. Soccer is a short career. You get rewarded for the hours you put in.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.