FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – In his first three campaigns in MLS, New England defender Kevin Alston spent most of his time focusing on his defensive duties.
He still stands out as one of the league's best one-versus-one options at right back, but he has now added a bit of attacking adventure to his game in his fourth season at the behest of Revolution coach Jay Heaps.
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"I like attacking," Alston told MLSsoccer.com. "Whenever we practice and we play short-sided games, I like going forward a lot. It feels good."
The transition from stay-at-home fullback to overlapping threat on the right side isn't a particularly easy one to make. Alston encounters more decisions than usual within the game as he decides when or whether to push forward and faces more scrutiny about the quality of his service into the penalty area.
As he grapples with those increased demands after years of primarily concentrating on his defensive duties, Alston said he wants to strike the proper balance between providing the right type of support and sustaining the Revs' shape at the back.
"I'm just attacking a lot more," Alston said. "We're still making sure that we're tight in the back defensively, but I'm just encouraged to get forward when it's on as much as possible. I'm trying to find that good balance where I'm not going where I don't need to be. I'm trying to make sure that I'm going at the right time. I'm still trying to work on that and go at the right time."
It is, as Alston notes, still a work in progress. He and his teammates are still feeling their way through a system that retains some structural similarities to the past (four at the back, four in midfield, two up front) and ushers in a more positive approach from the outset.
Room for growth still exists for both club and player, but Alston said he continues to work to transfer his work on the training field to his forward forays on matchday.
"I feel good," Alston said. "I feel like it's getting better and better with the more games we play. Everybody gets more comfortable with each other. Everybody figures out their role a little more.
"There are still things I'm working on as a right back getting forward, but I think I'm taking steps forward each game."
Kyle McCarthy covers the New England Revoltion for MLSsoccer.com