Purdie takes winding road to first MLS start

Rookie overcame midseason injuries to battle his way into the starting lineup

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Two months into his rookie season, Alec Purdie felt like he was on the verge of breaking into the New England Revolution’s starting lineup.

A regular on the club’s 18-man game day roster from day one, Purdie established himself as a viable option on the right wing with four substitute appearances in an eight-game span between March 24 and May 12. Although his minutes were limited – he entered in the 85th minute or later on three occasions – Purdie was playing his part as the Revs racked up a 3-1-0 record in his four appearances.

But a groin injury slowed his progress in June before an ankle sprain put him on the shelf long term in early July. Suddenly Purdie was spending his time in the treatment room instead of on the field.

“I was getting some games earlier in the year and unfortunately I had a little bit of a setback,” said Purdie. “I’ve been fighting the past two or three months just to get back, get fit, start getting some games and pretty much just help the team any way I possibly can.”

Purdie was sidelined through the end of August and didn’t fully regain his fitness until mid-September, when he began pushing feverishly for a return to the field. After watching a string of games in street clothes, Purdie finally made the bench for the Sept. 29 visit to BBVA Compass Stadium before being handed his first career start last weekend at PPL Park.

“It was great; it was my first professional start so I’ve been waiting a long time for it,” Purdie said after the Revolution’s 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union. “Unfortunately the result didn’t go the way we would’ve liked, but right now we’re pushing, just treating every last game like a playoff game, trying to get better for next season.”

“It took him a little while [to get settled],” said head coach Jay Heaps. “We were under pressure, but as the game went on I thought he got better. That’s what you have to ask for from the young guys: when they get a chance, to progress as the game goes on. I thought he adjusted well.”

Purdie had no choice but to adjust. After starting the game on the left wing, he was asked to provide cover at right back for the final 30 minutes after an A.J. Soares injury forced a shift across the backline. An attacking player throughout his life, Purdie’s only previous experience at right back was in training, reserve games and one U.S. Open Cup contest, but the 23-year-old was happy to contribute so long as he was on the field.

“I’m not a natural defender by any means, but I found myself playing right back,” said Purdie. “I made the best of what I had back there and just tried to work hard. I was trying to get a place in the team, so if right back is where it was going to be, that’s where I was at.”