FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Injuries, suspensions and international call-ups happen to every team during the course of a long and arduous season. For the New England Revolution, the problems started early in this campaign, but they have not affected the form of the league-leading side.
Deprived of Cassio, Joe Franchino and Felix Brilliant for the majority of the campaign, Steve Nicol's side has placed developmental players on the bench for road trips, often leaving Nicol devoid of experienced options as he looks towards his bench late in the match.
"It is part and parcel (of the season)," said Nicol. "It's unusual to get through a season without injuries and call-ups. That's why you need a strong squad."
The return of stars is not always assured if the understudy performs above expectations. Andy Dorman stepped in for a flu-stricken Jose Cancela and has not relinquished his starting job.
Nicol points to that example as a sign that the Revolution has a strong squad in place despite the injuries.
"The guys we have will do a good job," said Nicol. "Pepe [Jose Cancela] is a classic example. Andy [Dorman] has done so well after coming in that you cannot really change it. It's hard on Pepe, but that's football."
The changes will be acute in the offing, as the Revolution prepare to lose Clint Dempsey and Steve Ralston for the next couple of matches. The duo was named in Bruce Arena's squad for a friendly against England scheduled for Saturday, while further participation looms with World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica (June 4 in Salt Lake City) and in Panama (June 8) on the horizon.
Ralston provides service from the right flank, while Dempsey has had an MVP-caliber start to the season by instigating most of the attacking play in a driving role down the center of the park.
Regardless of their loss, Nicol believes that his squad can cope with the adversity it faces before, during, and after the return of Dempsey, Ralston, and the other squad members.
"The guys are confident with who is stepping in and the guys who are stepping out," said Nicol. "There are no edges or animosities. We have a strong squad. People understand that they can be left out. It is very clear that there is none of that here."
Revolution striker Taylor Twellman credits that mentality to his coach and the side's off-the-field preparations.
"Coach Nicol prepares everyone for when they need to play on the field," said Twellman. "As long as our injured players come back, we'll be fine."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.