FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Despite losing his starting spot after a hamstring injury sidelined him early in the season, A.J. Soares never stopped training hard.
Soares knew a time would come when the New England Revolution would need him to step back into the lineup, so he kept himself ready. He put in the work every day and waited patiently to be called upon.
That time came this past Saturday when Revs head coach Jay Heaps shook things up with five changes, including Soares returning to partner Jose Goncalves in central defense.
“You’re sensing guys are fighting every day and sometimes they’re a little bit better than the guy ahead of them, and you’ve got to reward that,” said Heaps. “Ninety percent of what we do is out here on the practice field, and that to me really matters.”
It was Soares’ second start since going down injured in April – the other coming July 20 in Columbus when he filled in for an ailing Stephen McCarthy – and the third-year defender put in a solid shift as the Revs picked up their league-leading 12th shutout of the season in a 2-0 victory.
Soares enjoyed his return to action and was pleased with his performance, but more than anything he was just happy to help the Revolution pick up a massive three points in the Eastern Conference standings.
“It felt good to be on the field, play 90 minutes and get a win. Everything felt good about it,” Soares said. “But it’s not about me. It’s not about any individual. We have a full team, we have a deep squad, everybody’s used and everyone plays an important role.
“Whether you’re just training hard and you’re pushing the level of the guys, or you’re on the field scoring all the goals, everybody’s important and that’s why this team’s had a little bit of success this year.”
On Saturday night, Soares’ job was to help backstop New England to another clean sheet. And whether he remains in the starting lineup moving forward or returns to a complementary role, he’ll continue doing his job every day.
He’ll always be ready.
“I train hard,” Soares said. “They pay me to come out here and do what they say. If it means training hard or it means playing in the game, nothing changed. My attitude, my training, nothing changed. It was just time. It was time for me to be on the field, they said, and I was ready to go.”