By Kevin Koczwara
The New England Revolution’s first victory since April 10 came with a price on Saturday night. Despite beating the New York Red Bulls, 3-2, the Revolution lost an integral part of their squad when Preston Burpo went down in the 34th minute with a lower right leg fracture, when making a play on a ball outside the box. Burpo was attended to for sometime before being stretchered off the field and taken to Mass General by ambulance.
“That was bad, especially for a guy who has been so big for us making another big play,” said Revolution rookie striker Zack Schilawski. “It’s tough and you don’t want to see a guy go down like that. A lot of the guys were shaken up and I think we were fortunate that it happened so close to half time so that we could get in here and get it back together.
“[Preston Burpo’s] brought leadership. He’s vocal – one of the most vocal guys on the team – and he’s made big plays for us all season; a lot of leadership, but also a lot of big plays. He has a lot of experience and is not afraid to share it.”
The 37-year-old has been around the MLS and the USL for many years. He made his longest stint with the Seattle Sounders for nine years when they were a USL team. He was then signed by Chivas USA in 2006 and has bounced around the MLS since. He had brief stints with San Jose and Colorado before being traded to New England this summer. He was brought in to sure up the goalkeeper position for the Revs while Matt Reis was out injured. Burpo has brought a lot of leadership to the young squad and made numerous big stops for the Revs as they have struggled early this year with injuries and depth in the midfield.
But injuries like Burpo’s do happen, sadly.
“Unfortunately, I’ve seen a couple (of injuries like that). Not too many, but it’s part of the game,” said Revolution manager Steve Nicol. “It was a straightforward challenge, there was no malice in it at all, but it was one of those things that unfortunately Preston’s the one that came out it the worse. As far as the challenge was concerned, I have no problem with that. He was going for the ball and these things happen.”
These things do happen. It happened to Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal this year in the English Premier League when he was tackled from behind by Ryan Shawcross of Stoke City. The 19-year old was on a high and was touted to be the next Ryan Giggs for Wales.
It happened to Eduardo of Arsenal in 2008 when Martin Taylor of Birmingham City went into a tackle with his studs up. Eduardo’s injury was so severe and the nature of the tackle so graphic that Sky Sports, broadcasting the game live, would not show any replays of the tackle.
The difference between Burpo’s injury and Ramsey’s and Eduardo’s has to be how it happened. Ramsey and Eduardo were both injured when a player tackled them illegally. Burpo’s injury came after a clean play by both players. Taylor and Shawcross were sent off for their tackles, while Dane Richards of the New York Red Bulls kept playing because he went into a tackle clean with no intent. But after all three injuries there was still a game to play.
It took New England’s captain Shalrie Joseph to collect his teammates and prepare them to continue on without Burpo.
“I told them just to keep their heads up and focus on the game,” said Joseph. “You can’t do anything about it – it happened and you just go out there and do it for Preston [Burpo] and ourselves. You’ve got a lot of people that are depending on us, so you just hold you head up and play soccer.”
That’s just what the Revolution did. They played on. New England won, 3-2, in a large part because of the play of Bobby Shuttleworth, the team’s back-up keeper who came on for Burpo after the injury.
“I feel terrible for Preston, but you know I got to be ready to go no matter what,” said Shuttleworth.
“I had a pretty good look at it. I didn’t realize what happened at first. I thought he made a really nice play on the ball actually, and then I could see him calling right away and then I realized it was pretty bad.”
Shuttleworth was ready to go when he was called upon, even if the situation wasn’t ideal.
“It was an unexpected situation but I always try to stay ready, stay alert, keep watching the flow of the game, try to stop dozing off, so that if I am called upon, I am ready to go and ready to play,” said Shuttlworth.
Shuttleworth will have to prepared this weekend as well when the Revolution head to Seattle to take on the Sounders.
For Burpo, he can only hoe to get back on the field and that the injury was not career-ending. Eduardo made his return after his horrific injury, and Ramsey is on the right track back to make his return.
“I was horrified. There’s no two ways to say it. Preston [Burpo] is such a good guy,” said Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney.
“It couldn’t have happened to a better guy, so it was just awful to see. We’re going to pull together for Preston and make sure he has all of the support he needs and hopefully he’ll bounce back.”
Hopefully he will bounce back because no one ever wants to see someone’s career end with injury and agony.
Matt Reis Status
Matt Reis will be eligible to come off of the disabled list for this weekend’s game, but has not yet been cleared by the medical staff to play. Reis was hoping to make his debut on June 13 against Brazilian club Cruzeiro and now he may have to see if he can suit up on Saturday for the game against Seattle.
For now Shuttleworth will start Saturday against Seattle and then the situation will be re-evaluated during and after the World Cup break.
Kevin Koczwara is a contributing writer and editor for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at email@example.com.