NEW YORK – Kevin Alston's abrupt departure from Major League Soccer in early April stunned his teammates, fans and players around the league, but the real surprise came with the speed he returned to the game.
Alston was named the MLS Comeback Player of the Year in a landslide vote on Monday, fitting punctuation after the 25-year-old New England Revolution defender returned to the field less than four months after he was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), a rare but treatable form of leukemia.
The award was voted on by media, MLS players and MLS club management based on regular season performance. Alston carried the vote among both club representatives and media members, and finished well ahead of the Philadelphia Union’s Conor Casey and Seattle Sounders’ Lamar Neagle in the final tally.
Alston started the Revs’ first four games of the season before he left the team’s match against FC Dallas on March 30 feeling ill. He then underwent routine physical and blood tests that produced the stunning diagnosis of chronic myelogenous leukemia, when a person’s bone marrow produces too many white blood cells.
The club announced Alston’s diagnosis on April 8 and immediately placed him on the disabled list, where he stayed during his treatment until late July, when he finally returned to the field on July 27.
Alston played in five of the Revolution’s last 14 regular season matches – including the final three games -- helping New England secure a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009.
“I never wanted to think that my career was over,” Alston told MLSsoccer.com’s ExtraTime Radio on Aug. 12. “At no point did I lose hope that I would play again … In my heart I thought, ‘At some point, I can beat this, and I when I do beat, I don’t see why I can’t go back to playing soccer.’ That was the mindset I had from the start.”
Alston is the first Revolution player to win the Comeback Player of the Year Award, and third on the team to win a postseason honor this year. José Gonçalves was named Defender of the Year and Matt Reis was named MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year.
|PLAYER||% Club Votes||% Media Votes||% Player Votes||WEIGHTED TOTAL|
|1. Kevin Alston (NE)||35.42||48.05||16.34||99.81|
|2. Conor Casey (PHI)||29.17||18.18||15.27||62.62|
|3. Lamar Neagle (SEA)||8.33||7.79||19.35||35.47|
|4. Donovan Ricketts (POR)||10.42||7.79||16.77||34.98|
MLS Comeback Player of the Year Winners:
2013: Kevin Alston – New England Revolution
2012: Eddie Johnson – Seattle Sounders FC
2011: David Beckham – Los Angeles Galaxy
2010: Bobby Convey – San Jose Earthquakes
2009: Zach Thornton – Chivas USA
2008: Kenny Cooper – FC Dallas
2007: Eddie Johnson – Kansas City Wizards
2006: Richard Mulrooney – FC Dallas
2005: Chris Klein – Kansas City Wizards
2004: Brian Ching – San Jose Earthquakes
2003: Chris Armas – Chicago Fire
2002: Chris Klein – Kansas City Wizards
2001: Troy Dayak – San Jose Earthquakes
2000: Tony Meola – Kansas City Wizards