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Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1LA
0SEA
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Leg 2
11/30 9:20pm
SEA
LA
ESPN
Western Conference Championship
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Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1NY
2NE
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Leg 2
11/29 3:00pm
NE
NY
NBCSN
Eastern Conference Championship

With New England Revolution's Jose Goncalves close to return, AJ Soares drawing praise as fill-in

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The ever-changing New England weather may not be cooperating with José Gonçalves’ recovery, but even that isn’t holding back the big Revolution defender from working on his rehab.

Gonçalves has been running alongside the Revolution training staff – through the brilliant sun on Tuesday and then the cold rain Friday – as he works back from a right quad strain.

Although the reigning MLS Defender of the Year has finally been able to get back out amongst his teammates, the club is being cautious with his recovery process, and it may be another week before Gonçalves is fully cleared to play.

“José is working hard to get back,” coach Jay Heaps told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “Whether that’s this week or next week, we don’t want to rush anyone back, so we’ll play it by ear.”

Gonçalves was cut down in the first half of the Revs’ Week 6 match against Houston, sidelining him for the past three matches, just as the club’s core group of defenders were coming together as a unit.

After helping guide one of the best defenses in the league without missing a match a year ago, there were some concerns over who would step into Gonçalves’ place when he went down. Yet the team has gone 2-0-1 in his absence, with extra efforts across the pitch and a brighter spotlight on fellow center back A.J. Soares, whose underrated play is now receiving more attention.

“His work ethic is top notch, and his commitment to the team is top notch,” said Heaps. “You guys may underrate him, but I certainly don’t”

Soares, the only defender to play every minute this season, has been key in both clearing space within the box and helping second-year defender Andrew Farrell adjust to the position during Gonçalves’ absence.

“I rate A.J. as a key player for us and always have,” said Heaps. “Not only what he brings on the field, but what he brings in the locker room, in training and how hard he works.”

Soares' ability to break the will of opponents with timely clearances was made clearly evident over the last two weeks as he steered aside six chances within the box, safely angling them away from any harm.

New England will need more of that as they welcome the high-flying Seattle Sounders offense to Gillette Stadium for a Saturday meeting (6 pm ET; MLS Live) while awaiting word on Gonçalves’ status.