FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England striker Kheli Dube had a big, wide smile plastered on his face as he came off the training field on Thursday morning.
The source of his joy? This week's return to the practice field after a protracted battle with whiplash.
Dube has missed the past 12 matches after symptoms from a May 22 car crash resurfaced in June. For most of that period, Dube has exhibited patience and spurned rigorous activity in order to allow his body to heal enough to take the field.
“It's been a long haul, a long road, but it's nice to be back,” Dube told MLSsoccer.com.
Although Dube linked up with his teammates to train this week, he isn't quite ready for match action. Easing himself back into the usual predatory activities of getting his head on a tempting cross into the penalty area and winning aerial battles, rather than building fitness, will be Dube’s primary obstacle according to Revolution coach Steve Nicol.
“As of yet, he hasn't done proper challenges in the air or heading the ball,” Nicol said. “He's not quite there yet. As soon as he's over that, then he's ready to go.”
After sitting on the sidelines and watching his teammates for the past few months, Dube said he will tread carefully and work hard as the season winds to a close.
“I'm just trying to see that I am healthy,” Dube said. “That's the most important thing. If I am healthy, then I can play football. If you're not healthy, there's nothing you can do.”
Fitness test foils Tierney
Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney went through his paces with head athletic trainer Sean Kupiec prior to last Saturday's 2-2 draw with New York, but he eventually concluded that he could not feature against the Red Bulls. Tierney sprained his left foot last Friday.
“I gave it my best go, but it just wasn't ready,” Tierney said. “It was a situation where it was going to keep getting worse if I tried to play on it. I'd be out for a stretch of games. I just had to bite the bullet and miss the New York game, which was tough.”
Although Tierney did sit out on Saturday, he resumed full training this week and should benefit from the extra time off before the Revolution's next game at Philadelphia on Sept. 7.
“It was just a little sprain, but it got the time it needed to calm down,” Tierney said. “It feels good.”
Zerka slated to arrive on Friday
Revolution officials expected newly signed winger Monsef Zerka to land in Boston on Thursday night and potentially link up with his new teammates on Friday morning.
Zerka acquired the necessary P1 work visa earlier this week to pave the way for his possible inclusion in the squad to face the Union. The match, which was originally supposed to be played Sunday, has been rescheduled to Sept. 7 due to Hurricane Irene, giving Zerka plenty of time to settle into the squad before taking on Philadelphia.