By Nick Ironside
FOXBOROUGH — When the Revolution take on the Seattle Sounders on Saturday afternoon at CenturyLink Field, a familiar face won’t be present.
The Revolution announced Monday that defender Kevin Alston has been diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Alston has started all four games this season and 116 in his five-year tenure with New England.
Although the Revolution won’t have Alston making his trademark attacking runs down the wing, the players will have the 24-year-old left back in mind.
“Kevin is a great teammate and a great friend,” said midfielder Lee Nguyen. “We all support him, and he talked to us on Monday. We just told him that we’re all here for him and we’re going to keep him in our hearts and pray.”
Coach Jay Heaps said that Alston’s diagnosis puts winning games in perspective.
“Wins and losses are vital in our game, and sometimes that feels like life and death, but a lot of times, it’s not,” said Heaps. “It might be life and death to your career, but not waking up and breathing.”
The Revolution, with a record of 1-2-1, have scored just once this season. That goal, by forward Jerry Bengtson, came March 9 in the season-opening win at Chicago.
“I feel like we are attacking, we’re just not attacking all that well,” Heaps said. “The numbers are there, but whether it’s the right run, or the wrong ball, or a combination of the two . . . it’s got to be better, and it’s got to be more clinical in those situations.”
Nguyen believes goals will come over time.
“We’re still trying to put the pieces together, but we’re going to find it with more games and more training together,” said Nguyen. “We’ve created chances, and right now it’s just a problem of finishing them.”
One player who can finish is Frenchman Saer Sene, who scored 11 goals in 25 appearances last year before his season was ended by a knee injury. Sene is back with the team, but Heaps is taking it “day by day” with the forward.
On Thursday, the club announced that goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth signed a new contract. Shuttleworth started sharing more time with Matt Reis toward the end of last season.
“Matt has been one of the best goalkeepers in the league for a long time,” said Shuttleworth. “I’ve picked up a lot of things through training with him every day.”
The Sounders (0-3-1) are the only team in Major League Soccer without a win. But the Revolution don’t expect an easy task. Seattle averages almost 40,000 fans per home game and finished third in the Western Conference in 2012.
“I don’t think their record reflects what type of team they are,” Shuttleworth said. “It’s going to be a tough environment. We’ve just got to weather the storm, play our game, keep the ball and take our chances when they come.”
And in their first game without Alston, the Revolution won’t forget about their missing teammate.
“We’ll definitely be thinking about Kevin,” said Shuttleworth. “We’re just going to carry forward and hope to see him back soon.”