FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Kevin Alston won’t physically be able to take the field with his teammates for a while, but he’ll still be a major part of the New England Revolution as the 2013 season progresses.
The Revs will play their first game since Alston was diagnosed with a rare but treatable form of leukemia this Saturday afternoon when they visit Seattle Sounders FC and although Alston’s name won’t be penciled in on the team sheet, his teammates will be looking to him for strength in spirit.
“It’s heartbreaking what he’s going through, but at the same time, we know that he would want to be there with us,” said Matt Reis. “When it’s getting tough and when things aren’t going our way, we just have to think of him and all that he’s going through and hopefully that’ll give us a little boost to get us where we need to be.”
“Everyone knows about the situation with Kevin and it’s something we’ve handled as a team and as a family,” said Chris Tierney, one candidate to start at left back in Alston’s absence. “We spoke with Kevin and all of our support is with him. We’re thinking about him all week through training and obviously as we play this weekend.”
The Revs have coped with the difficult task this week of processing the news about their teammate and dealing with the resulting emotions while simultaneously preparing for Saturday’s game. Alston addressed his teammates on Monday morning and his presence was a boost as it gave players and coaches the chance to ask questions, show their support and as head coach Jay Heaps put it, “give him a hug and just see how he was doing.”
Heaps has opened the door for Alston to visit his teammates as often as he pleases while undergoing treatment – whether he comes to the stadium “once a week, twice a week or 10 times a week,” Heaps said – and hopes the support of his Revolution family will provide comfort during Alston’s recovery.
At the same time, the players will continue to devote the required attention to the task at hand – namely, racking up some victories and climbing the Eastern Conference standings – as they play for the teammate who can’t currently join them on the field.
“That was the quietest the (locker) room has been the entire time I’ve been here,” Heaps said, referencing Alston’s announcement to the team. “Those are tough emotions. But the guys have to use that and say, ‘Look, Kevin can’t play, but now we go on the field and [play] the game we love. Kevin would be out here if he could, but he just can’t right now, so let’s go out and get some wins and get Kevin back here as soon as we can.’”