In the New England Revolution home broadcast halftime interview, head coach Bruce Arena hinted at lineup changes to break down an unyielding Nashville SC defense, smirking, “There will be plenty of substitutions in the second half.”
One of those substitutions, however, was particularly unexpected, and welcome for Revs fans who might have otherwise been frustrated with the team's 1-1 draw on Friday night.
Carles Gil is back.
The Spanish Designated Player and 2019 Best XI honoree, who suffered an injury to his Achilles tendon during the MLS Is Back Tournament, had successful surgery in his home country Aug. 6. At the time of the surgery, he wasn't expected back on the field for three to five months — an indication that a return to play during the playoffs was possible, but coming back to action during the regular season wasn't within the recovery timetable. And yet, more than two weeks from Decision Day, Gil returned and was active if not productive in more than 20 minutes on the field.
"I feel very happy to have this feeling of being with the team again," Gil said through a translator in the Revs' post-match interview "I've worked very hard for this moment the past two and a half months," adding that the time off the field "had been pretty tough on me, so I'm really glad to be back here."
Highlights: Nashville 1, New England 1
The wet conditions did give Gil some pause; the match was delayed nearly 90 minutes due to thunderstorms that passed through Nashville. "It didn't help. It was a tough field ... the conditions were tough, and that didn't help with the injury, but it went well. Luckily, everything went well. I felt comfortable out there. I trained a couple times with the team during the week, and my goal was to be in the best physical form to help them out this season."
"When I got hurt, my goal was to work as hard as possible to get back sooner than expected," Gil noted. While he credits his personal trainer in Spain for helping him prepare, he also admits that it's going to take a bit of time to get back up to speed. "My head was seeing things that my legs weren't quite ready for," he admitted. "But my goal was to be back as soon as possible, and I'm happy."
Though the Revs have gotten by creatively after bringing in Lee Nguyen and Tommy McNamara after Gil went down, the return of one of the league's elite playmakers to the fold should be a huge boost as they battle for seeding in the Eastern Conference.
Gil's next chance to start comes Wednesday, when the Revs face the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.