New England Soccer Today

Kouassi Makes Preseason Debut

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

On the official match report, Xavier Kouassi’s brief time on pitch during Wednesday’s preseason tilt between the Revolution and Dynamo was hardly significant. But to the player and his club, it was far from a mundane cameo.

Fifty-three weeks after he tore his ACL in Swiss Super League action, the Revolution midfielder returned to the pitch for his first competitive action since the injury, garnering 15 minutes against the Dynamo before he was subbed off.

“I think it’s important,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told the media after the match. “Fifteen minutes was always the number. He’s still a little bit, from a fitness standpoint, a little bit further away.”

The fact Kouassi, who was inked to a future designated player deal a mere days before the injury, was able to play in Wednesday’s match cannot be viewed as anything less than a positive development for all parties involved.

At the start of camp, the Ivory Coast international trained with a shiny blue knee brace, a sure fire sign he wasn’t quite ready to see the pitch. And he didn’t, at least initially, as he was held out of the Revolution’s first three preseason games.

But after getting a series of training sessions under his belt, and taking the next step in his recovery, Kouassi was finally able to shed the brace and face live ammo for the first time.

“I think it was a good stepping stone to get a game in,” Heaps said, “live action, prepare for a game and get in there and compete at the highest level.”

Brief as it may have been, Kouassi nevertheless received a valuable opportunity to mesh with his teammates, something that will be crucial to the club’s success in 2017. After all, the Revolution didn’t dole out designated player money just to build midfield depth.

Time will tell what kind impact Kouassi will have this season. Many professional athletes who’ve suffered ACL tears say it isn’t until 18-24 months have passed that they feel back to normal. The fact Kouassi will have to train and play on the artificial turf at Gillette Stadium probably won’t shorten the recovery process.

If Heaps harbors that concern, he didn’t express it following Wednesday’s match. While Revolution coach didn’t go into detail about the plan for Kouassi with three more preseason matches on tap, Heaps appeared optimistic that steady progress will be made.

“I think it was a good first test for him,” Heaps said. “Hopefully, that continues to kind of spark even more minutes coming up.”

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