FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When he began to experience pain in his heel early in the 2019 campaign, Michael Mancienne didn’t give it much thought.
“I’ll just play through it until the pain subsides,” Mancienne figured.
But the pain didn’t subside. Instead, it got worse each time the veteran New England Revolution center back stepped onto the field. Mancienne featured eight times before finally succumbing to the injury, officially diagnosed as plantar fasciitis – inflammation of the tissue connecting the heel and toes.
“It’s the most painful thing you could ever have in your life, I can tell you that right now,” Mancienne said. “I’ve struggled. I tried to play through it, and I just ended up making it worse than what it was. It got to the point where I couldn’t really walk.”
Mancienne’s attempts to play through the injury exacerbated the inflammation so severely that he needed almost three months on the sidelines to fully recover, a brutal stretch away from the field that finally ended with a return in Saturday afternoon’s 3-3 draw at Seattle Sounders FC.
Playing the full 90 minutes in the middle of a three-man central defense – flanked by Jalil Anibaba on the left and Andrew Farrell on the right – Mancienne marked his return with his first MLS goal, a powerful header that was initially chalked off for a foul, but ultimately awarded after Video Review.
“My heart was thumping. I was praying,” Mancienne said of waiting for the decision to award the goal to come through. “Thank God it was a goal, and I’m delighted.”
New England used three center backs at CenturyLink Field in part because of Mancienne’s return. Sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena said it was “a formation best suited” for the Revs, as it provided support for Mancienne in his first appearance since early May.
“It helped having Andrew and Jalil next to me,” Mancienne said. “We spoke throughout the whole game, which made our jobs a little bit easier. Coming back into a back five was obviously a nice way for me to come in.”
Mancienne admitted that “it wasn’t a perfect game, by any means,” and expressed frustration that the Revs conceded three times in Seattle, most notably a pair of goals that Mancienne called “avoidable” just one minute apart midway through the second half.
But it was, on the whole, a positive first step for Mancienne as he continues to work his way back to full fitness, and with Antonio Delamea recovering from injury and Farrell suspended for next weekend’s trip to Red Bull Arena, it’s likely that Mancienne will continue to have a significant role to play.
“It felt great for me,” Mancienne said of returning to the fold. “It’s been a long, stressful journey trying to get back to full fitness. I’ve still got a little way to go in getting match fit, but every game helps and I’m going to improve every single game.”