Designated Player

Kouassi progressing “right on schedule” as he settles into life in New England

Xavier Kouassi with Mike Burns and Jay Heaps

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s the day before the U.S. Open Cup final and New England Revolution goalkeeper Brad Knighton is giving an interview on the side of a training field in Frisco, Texas.

Knighton is trying to maintain his composure and answer the questions as seriously as possible, but Revolution newcomer Xavier Kouassi isn’t having any of it. He’s made it his mission to throw Knighton off his game, making faces and doing anything he can to distract his teammate from the task at hand.

Knighton perseveres, though, and Kouassi is left playfully frustrated that his tactics are unsuccessful. It’s a relatively insignificant sequence in the grand scheme, but it perfectly captures how well Kouassi has settled into the Revolution locker room.

When you're trying to conduct a serious interview...

— NewEnglandRevolution (@NERevolution) September 12, 2016

“He’s settling really well,” said Knighton. “It stinks that he’s not out here (playing) with us, but he’s a riot in the locker room. He’s always trying to have a joke here and there. His English isn’t that great, but he’s continuing to work on that on a daily basis.”

Kouassi arrived in Foxborough three months ago and while his on-field activity has been limited while recovering from right knee surgery, he’s taken the opportunity to acclimate to life in the United States. By all accounts, it’s been a beneficial period for the 26-year-old central midfielder.

“I think from a locker room standpoint, from a personality standpoint, from a language barrier standpoint, (it’s been) really good for him to be here,” said head coach Jay Heaps.

That comfort level will serve to benefit Kouassi when he’s finally back on the field, something Heaps says isn’t that far off. Kouassi is almost eight months into his recovery and has been steadily increasing his workload, progressing to agility work and sharp cuts in recent weeks.

With just two games left on the regular season schedule fans will likely have to wait until 2017 to see Kouassi debut in a Revolution jersey, but there is hope that the Ivorian midfielder will take part in his first full training sessions before the current season is out.

“In terms of his progression, he’s right on schedule,” Heaps said. “I don’t think we’re going to see him this year, but there’s always a chance he’s going to get into training toward the last couple weeks.”