The following story was published in the Revolution’s “Match Day” program for the October 15 home finale against the Columbus Crew
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Rookie defender A.J. Soares had a clear objective when he arrived in Foxborough for his first preseason training camp with the New England Revolution back in January.
“My goal was to come in and do as well as I could, and I knew if I did that I’d have a chance to start,” Soares said while reflecting on the experience more than eight months later. “That was definitely my goal and something in my mind. I went into camp saying, ‘I’m going to get my spot and that’s my goal coming out of camp.’ And I did that.”
Soares did more than just claim his spot in the starting lineup. The sixth overall selection in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft established himself as one of the steadiest presences on the Revolution backline and compiled a convincing case for MLS Rookie of the Year, starting every game for which he was available from opening day until season-ending ankle surgery sidelined him in early October.
All told, Soares made 28 appearances (all starts) and totaled 2,464 minutes of regular-season action, trailing only veterans Kevin Alston (2,684) and Shalrie Joseph (2,590) in that category when his season came to a premature end. Those types of numbers – and his consistent run of form throughout 2011 – earned Soares the nod as the Revolution’s Defender of the Year, as chosen by the local media.
“Aside from the results, it was a really positive experience,” Soares said of his rookie year. “I learned a lot, got a lot of playing time and kind of learned what it’s like to do a full year in the league. There were definitely a lot of ups and downs – personal ups and downs as well as team ups and downs – but overall it was a very positive experience. I’m glad to be here.”
Someone else who’s glad Soares found his way to Foxborough is veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis, who watched closely as the 22-year-old center back progressed throughout the season. It’s a progression Reis believes Revolution fans will continue to see for years to come.
“Any time a player can come in and contribute right away, it’s fantastic,” Reis said. “You see a lot with rookies and young players, they go through a bit of a lull. For him, he never really experienced that. He was a steady contributor … It was great for him and the future is very bright.”