New England Revolution defender Joe Franchino returned to a unique situation upon recovering from injury: his spot in the side was under threat.
With the Revolution unbeaten in nine matches prior to his return last weekend, Franchino looked upon a side that had a miserly defense, partially compliments of left back and Trinidad & Tobago international Avery John.
As he peered upfield, Franchino saw Marshall Leonard ensconced at left midfield, while defensive midfield was covered by the irreplaceable Shalrie Joseph and Andy Dorman.
John was called in by Trinidad and Tobago for their recent set of qualifiers, allowing Franchino to start at left back in last weekend's 1-1 home draw with Kansas City.
The T&T international returns this weekend, leaving Revolution manager Steve Nicol with a decision to make as to who fills his left back berth.
"I don't know what's going on in [Nicol's] mind," said Franchino. "He's going to make his decisions and we will support them.
"It's just a tough decision," said Nicol. "Joe's pushing to play. Avery has played well all season for us."
Franchino believes that he is nearing match fitness after dogged work in training. The veteran defender admits that reserve matches and bike work do not constitute match fitness.
"I played in a reserve game [before last weekend]," said Franchino. "I trained hard. I worked on the bike, but you can't replicate a real game. It was my first full game, and I'm not where I needed to be. It was a stepping stone. I felt all right, but I was sluggish sometimes when looking to go forward."
Nicol was pleased with Franchino's performance upon his return on Saturday night.
"I thought he did fine," said Nicol. "Joe always finds something wrong with his game. He wants to be perfect."
As Franchino acquires his match fitness, preferably in his accustomed role at left back, he looks to combine with Leonard to create dangerous offensive opportunities on the left flank.
"We have a great understanding," said Franchino. "When I get really fit, which is close, Marshall can get forward more."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.