FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – At some point during his spell outside of the New England starting XI in April, Revolution striker Blake Brettschneider decided he didn't particularly like the status quo.
Brettschneider said he struggled with an ankle knock and watched his form suffer accordingly after starting two of the first three games of the season. The prospect of spending much of the year outside of the first-team setup didn't appeal to him after his surprising departure from D.C. United earlier this year. Instead of accepting his lot behind José Moreno and Saër Sène in the pecking order, Brettschneider increased his own efforts in a bid to work his way back into the starting lineup.
“I changed some things, started buckling down and working a lot harder,” Brettschneider told MLSsoccer.com. “I was really trying to get back in the 18 and get back on the field. It's been a good couple of weeks for me.”
WATCH: Brettschneider finds the back of the net vs RSL
When Moreno suffered a right calf strain in the Revolution's 2-1 victory over Colorado on May 2 and Sène picked up an undisclosed illness prior to the visit to Real Salt Lake three days later, Brettschneider earned the chance to feature at Rio Tinto Stadium.
His performance – including a stunning goal to open his Revolution account – as the lone frontrunner in that match displayed how his game has evolved since the start of the campaign, according to New England boss Jay Heaps.
“We used him early and you see what he adds,” Heaps said, “but, I think as the season has gone on, he's starting to settle in and see what we're looking for. With his ability to compete in the air, he's really challenging a lot of defenders. That's something we love about him.”
Brettschneider said his ability to find the scoresheet in Utah encouraged him to further expand his contributions and use his ability to hassle the opposition when paired with Sène against the Whitecaps on Saturday.
“If nothing else, it was kind of a weight off of my shoulders,” Brettschneider expressed. “It's always nice to get the first one, especially being with a new club this year and trying to find my form. Confidence-wise, it does a lot for me. It makes it a lot easier. Every touch I take now, it's with a little bit more creativity in mind and looking to get forward to get more shots on goal.”
New England may just benefit from those qualities again this weekend against Houston as Moreno continues to work his way back from his calf complaint. If Brettschneider does retain his place, Heaps said the 23-year-old striker is in the right sort of form to trouble opposing defenses.
“Blake has done a great job for us,” Heaps added. “He continues to work hard and, for me, continues to get better. You see him taking up a lot of defenders and he takes up good spots defensively. I really like the way he's playing right now.”