Revs dealing with 'tough emotions' regarding Alston

Revs dealing with 'tough emotions' regarding Alston
April 12, 2013, 5:00 pm
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FOXBORO -- The New England Revolution have faced adversity before. But nothing like this.

On Monday, the team announced that 24-year-old defender Kevin Alston has been diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). It is a rare but treatable form of leukemia, and Alston has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the team because of it.

Before he left to undergo treatment, Alston made the announcement to his team on Monday, inside the Gillette Stadium locker room.

There have been quiet times in there before. But nothing like this.

"It's been an emotional week because we, as a staff, started to find out some information last week, but we weren't exactly sure how it was going to play out until the final tests came in," said Revolution coach Jay Heaps after Wednesday's practice. "So, dealing with it on Monday, as a group, was one of the best ways to do it. For us, as a staff, we were present for Kevin's announcement to the team.

"And just seeing the emotions of the guys. That was the quietest the room has been the entire time I've been here. Those are tough emotions."

The Revs had a bye last weekend. Before that, Alston played in the previous game. Alston's teammates knew he wasn't feeling well while playing 88 minutes in a 1-0 loss to FC Dallas.

Alston was then sent to get tests done, and his time away from the team was also tough to deal with.

"I think him not being there created a little anxiety," said Heaps. "And then, on Monday, we were able to announce it and give the full diagnosis, and Kevin was able to answer questions. He was present in the locker room and present at training. And I think that in itself gave the guys some resolution and at least put the anxiety down. They were able to talk to Kevin and give him a hug and just see how he was doing. I think his absence was more of an issue. But now that he's around, he'll be around, the guys can really ask him questions and then lean on him and lean on each other through this process."

After the announcement on Monday, Alston went out with the team and watched them practice.

"For Kevin himself, the most important thing is his recovery and the most important thing is having him feel a part of family," said Heaps. "He's got his own family, but I think that we, as an organization, are very open to him getting better and how he's going to get better. If he comes in once a week, twice a week, 10 times a week, if he wants to do double-sessions of hanging out with the guys, that's fine. In terms of Kevin being around, I think it will be good for his recovery that he's around the group.

"When you see Kevin at training, it's hard not to go out there and give everything you have and respond well, because here's this guy who was training full a week ago, but now he's being told he can't," added Heaps. "And he'd give anything he could to be back out there."

For Heaps, in his second year as the Revolution coach, this is something he never thought he'd have to deal with.

"We try so hard, when we're talking about how desperate we are for a win in this game, and how desperate results are, and then something like Kevin's situation comes along and it gives you a jolt of what real-life situations are and how the game that we play is a great game, but how we take it sometimes probably too seriously at times," said Heaps. "That said, the guys are rallying behind Kevin. Kevin has been an important part of our team, and he'll continue to be an important part of our team. Knowing that the diagnosis is positive in the light of a full recovery, that's what we're going to hope and pray for.

"It's tough because it's not something that you put your body on the line for, meaning that, we all have seen injuries where a player hurts his knee or breaks a leg, or something that's pretty devastating for your career, but never really something that is life and death," added Heaps. "It's something that you just don't expect, when you have a lot of guys in the locker room that are pretty healthy guys. So yeah, it's been tough."

As for Alston's teammates, they'll undoubtedly tribute the rest of this early season to him, knowing that Alston would much rather be out on the field with them.

"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 Revolution goalkeepr 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."