FOXBOROUGH, Mass -- When Steve Ralston first heard the news about the financial problems plaguing AC St. Louis, he produced the type of response you'd expect from a veteran captain playing in his hometown.
He wanted to stay.
“All of this stuff came out a couple of weeks ago about the financial stuff with the owners,” Ralston said. “At the time, I was very hopeful that we could sort it out and that I could stay there. I went back there hoping to build something to last. Unfortunately, I don't really see that happening.”
Reality soon intervened. The ownership group shut down its WPS team, Saint Louis Athletica, on May 27. Soon after, expansion club AC St. Louis gave its blessing for Ralston, their marquee signing, to explore a move back to MLS. Talks subsequently started between Ralston, his representative, MLS and the Revolution to figure out a way to bring the former American international back to New England.
Ralston inked a new deal with MLS and officially announced his return to the Revolution on Tuesday. The 35-year-old midfielder will start his 15th MLS season after the World Cup break and said he believes New England “is probably where I belong.”
“It just made sense to come back here,” Ralston said. “I know everybody. I have friends here. My kids have friends here and they all went to school here. It made sense. I have a relationship with all of the people here, with Stevie [Nicol, Revolution head coach] and all of the guys on the team. I'm not going to lie and say that I didn't miss these guys. I did.”
New England certainly missed Ralston as well. Revolution vice president of player personnel Michael Burns said Ralston, a former Revolution captain and the all-time MLS leader in appearances (378) and assists (135), will bolster the club on and off the field.
“He's spent so much time here that we don't expect any adjustment period for him,” Burns said. “He knows the area, he knows a bunch of the players and he knows the coaching staff. It made complete sense.”
The move makes even more sense considering that Ralston's right knee is now back in working order. Although Ralston continues to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last September, he said his knee feels fine and improves with each passing day.
Ralston said he wants to spend his World Cup break working on his fitness before the Revs return to the field against Chicago on June 27.
“I'll talk to Koop (head athletic trainer Sean Kupiec) and I'm sure he'll put me on some regimen,” Ralston said. “I want to be playing again. AC had [last] weekend off, so I had five days off and that coincided with a few days off we have here. I feel like I need to be working and getting some good training sessions in here. Playing in practice isn't the same as a game, but I feel like I need to get my fitness level [back] and and stay sharp.”
Ralston most recently saw action in two AC St. Louis matches in late May: a 33-minute substitute appearance in a 3-0 defeat to Tampa Bay on May 22, and a 90-minute shift in a 3-2 defeat at NSC Minnesota on May 29.