FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – After tweaking his right hamstring in a training session last week, New England Revolution defender Cory Gibbs chatted over his options with Revolution coach Steve Nicol.
Gibbs wanted to fight through the slight setback and play in last Saturday's 3-2 victory against New York. The former US international's determination made sense, given the dearth of available central defenders. With Darrius Barnes and Emmanuel Osei already ruled out through injury, the Revs needed Gibbs' steady veteran presence at the back to help keep things together defensively.
“My hammy just tightened up on me,” Gibbs told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “It felt OK for the game, but Stevie just advised me to be safe rather than sorry.”
Caution prompted Nicol to ignore Gibbs' wishes and omit the experienced defender from his squad. Nicol said the foundation for the decision came from years of watching players turn minor hamstring tweaks into serious pulls or tears by placing too much stress on the injury in a game situation.
“He wanted to play at the weekend,” Nicol said. “No surprise there. But I'm an old geezer and I've seen a lot of hamstrings and I've seen a lot of people try to play with them. When you tweak it and you try to play a proper game, you do it completely. It wasn't worth the risk of him being out for another six weeks if he tears his hamstring.”
Focusing on the bigger picture allowed Gibbs to rest his injury and return to the training field at full strength this week. Although he wanted to play against the Red Bulls, Gibbs said the decision allowed him the opportunity to recover in time for Saturday's visit to Seattle.
“As a player, I wanted to go and I was ready to go, but I had to listen to the gaffer's advice,” Gibbs said. “I think it was a smart choice. It's calmed down now and it's 100 percent.”
Nicol admitted the decision could have backfired had the Red Bulls emerged with a result on Saturday, but the combination of Gibbs' recovery and the victory over New York in his absence made the move worthwhile.
“Sometimes, it works out,” Nicol said. “Sometimes, it slaps you in the kisser, you know?”