WASHINGTON – It is difficult to imagine a more appropriate scenario for Kevin Alston's return to the New England Revolution.
Alston grew up mere miles from RFK Stadium. His family still lives in the area. And his teammates desperately needed the energy he always brings to help them ward off a late equalizer from D.C. United.
The former MLS All-Star replaced Dimitry Imbongo in the 84th minute and stepped onto the field for the first time since he learned he had a rare form of leukemia in April. He played his part to help the Revs see out their 2-1 victory and then reflected on the emotion and the magnitude of the moment.
“It was unbelievable,” Alston told MLSsoccer.com. “My parents were there, my brother was there, my grandfather was there, all my family and friends (were there). It made it special to be able to do it in front of them.”
His colleagues felt the same way. They noticed Alston slowly and steadily work his way back to full fitness. They supported him in his efforts. They waited for the opportunity to embrace him on the field in the wake of a Revolution victory.
“It was the best,” Revolution defender Chris Tierney said. “It gave us all a boost. Everyone knows what he's been through. He's an inspiration for all of us. We all feed off the energy that he brings every day. We're all super proud of him. It's great to see him back. Hopefully, we'll be seeing a lot more of him.”
And the last part made the night worthwhile. Alston did not appear for a late cameo. He assumed his usual duties for the waning stages of the matched and helped the Revs secure a second consecutive road victory.
Once Alston heard the final whistle, he let the emotions overcome him. He didn't need to focus on his job any more. He could soak in these precious memories and marvel at the path that led him to this special, special night.
“As soon as the game was over, everybody came over to congratulate me,” Alston said. “I was trying my hardest not to cry. I was fighting tears. They’ve been supportive since the start and they showed it again tonight.”
Kyle McCarthy covers the New England Revolution for MLSsoccer.com.