FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution center back A.J. Soares started all 28 games for which he was available this season – missing four because of injury and two because of suspension – and was rewarded for his steady performances with deserved recognition as the club’s Defender of the Year. The sixth overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft has also garnered significant attention in the league’s Rookie of the Year discussion following an impressive first professional campaign.
And he did it all on a bum ankle.
Soares underwent season-ending surgery on his left ankle on Oct. 6, and later revealed the injury had been a persistent issue throughout 2011 after initially suffering the knock during the Revolution’s preseason trip to the Atlanta area back in March.
“It’s been the entire year,” Soares admitted as he began a recovery process expected to take approximately six to eight weeks. “It’s definitely been bothering me a lot and affecting my game. I’m happy that next season I’ll be back to feeling normal. Hopefully I can have a full season where I’ll be feeling at my peak [in terms of] athleticism and all that, because I could definitely tell the ankle was affecting me all year.”
It was a surprising revelation considering Soares’ contributions on New England’s backline as the 22-year-old carved out a place in the starting lineup for the season opener and never relinquished his spot. Only Kevin Alston (2,864) and Shalrie Joseph (2,770) played more minutes for the Revolution than Soares (2,464) in 2011.
While the former University of California standout played through the pain for much of the season, eventually his condition worsened in the later stages. Soares concedes that a groin injury he suffered on Sept. 16 against the Portland Timbers was likely linked as he tried to physically compensate for the discomfort in his ankle, and shortly thereafter the decision was made to undergo the necessary surgery.
“Right around that time I went in and got an MRI, and they thought it could’ve been something a little bit worse,” said Soares. “So they said we should put you in right now, get this done with and try to limit the affect on next season. They went in and it was best-case scenario, so it worked out.”
With the surgery deemed a success, Soares is well on the road to recovery and should be ready to go – with two healthy ankles – when the Revs open preseason camp in 2012.
“Physically I’m feeling good,” said Soares. “Mostly I’m just really happy that I got the procedure done and I know next season I’ll be feeling normal again, so that’s what I’m most happy about.
“I think I’ll be fully walking at about week two after the surgery,” he added. “Then it’ll be two weeks of strengthening, and then I think I’ll start jogging after about maybe five weeks. Hopefully after that I’ll start doing fitness, trying to get my fitness level back up and [be] fully ready for next preseason. I want to have a good preseason and my goal is to be going in feeling at my physical peak.”