FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It may have been the 17th and final home game of the 2012 season, but many New England Revolution fans likely still needed to glance at the roster to figure out who was playing central midfield alongside Clyde Simms and Kelyn Rowe in last weekend’s 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire.
The mystery man was Blair Gavin, acquired from Chivas USA in the Aug. 1 trade which sent longtime captain Shalrie Joseph across the country, making his Revolution debut almost three months later after overcoming a series of injuries and working his way into the lineup.
In his first appearance in a league match since July 21 – when he started for Chivas USA against the LA Galaxy – Gavin played 61 minutes against Chicago and was a key figure in the Revolution’s midfield setup, aimed at possessing the ball when possible and limiting the effectiveness of Fire catalyst Chris Rolfe.
“He was great,” head coach Jay Heaps said of the debutant. “We asked a lot of him and he hasn’t played in a long time. He’s coming back from injury and I thought he did a really good job of keeping the ball, tempo; he wasn’t afraid to get it with a guy on his back and keep us going forward.”
A former first-round SuperDraft pick out of the University of Akron, Gavin was primarily used as a defensive midfielder under Caleb Porter but was converted to a wing midfield position with Chivas USA. In New England, Heaps has shown a preference to move Gavin back into the middle, where the 23-year-old admits he feels a bit more comfortable.
“I think I can kind of dictate the flow of the game,” said Gavin. “I think technically, once I get sharp, I can possess the ball and know when to go forward, know when to calm down and see what the situation of the game is.
“Also, I defend and I’m going to go out there and defend. I was brought up a defensive midfielder and that’s kind of what I want to (do is) win balls. I don’t like to defend; I like having the ball. But we need the ball, so I try to go get it for us.”
Gavin admits he has a ways to go before reaching his full potential – he estimates his fitness is around 90 percent and his sharpness is around 80 percent – but he’s willing to put in the work on the training field to make sure that potential is achieved as soon as possible.
“There’s still a big learning curve,” said Gavin. “Playing on turf is [different] but I’m excited to keep growing. I feel like I’ve been practicing better, I’ve been doing the right things, so we’ll see what happens.”