|Celebrations subdued by Burpo’s injury
||By Jeff Lemieux, Staff Writer & Online Host
Goalkeeper Preston Burpo suffered a lower right leg fracture in Saturday night’s 3-2 win over the New York Red Bulls
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – On most nights, the New England Revolution locker room would be in a celebratory mood following a 3-2 win over the rival New York Red Bulls, especially considering the victory snapped a seven-game winless run and eased mounting pressure to secure three points. The atmosphere on Saturday night, however, was greatly subdued as the players’ thoughts were instead with injured goalkeeper Preston Burpo.
Burpo suffered a lower right leg fracture in a 34th-minute collision with Red Bulls midfielder Dane Richards, and the severity of the injury was immediately apparent as Burpo and players on both teams instantly began calling for medical personnel. The 37-year-old goalkeeper was treated for many minutes on the field before being carted off on a stretcher to a loud ovation from the home fans. Burpo gave a thumbs up as he was carted away, and he was then transported by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital, where the severity of the injury was confirmed.
Many Revolution players were visibly shaken by the incident, with a number of Burpo’s teammates struggling to hold back their emotions.
“It was just horrific,” said captain Shalrie Joseph, who earned two assists in his first appearance at Gillette Stadium since April 10. “Preston was so brave – he came out and sacrificed his body for the team. I just wanted to go over there, console him, hold his hand and tell him how much we really appreciate what he’s doing.”
Joseph’s central midfield partner, Chris Tierney, was also shocked by the gruesome nature of the injury, which was the result of Burpo and Richards challenging for a 50-50 ball at the top of the box. And like Joseph, Tierney couldn’t help but speak of Burpo’s character after the game.
“I was horrified – there’s no two ways to say it,” said Tierney. “Preston is such a good guy. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy, so it was just awful to see. We’re going to pull together for Preston and make sure he has all the support he needs and hopefully he’ll bounce back.”
The Revs were holding on to a 2-1 lead at the time of the injury. Marko Perovic had given New England an eighth minute lead with his second goal of the season, while an own goal by Red Bulls defender Tim Ream had restored the Revolution’s advantage after Seth Stammler had leveled the score with a wayward cross which found side netting in the 20th minute.
Before play restarted more than five minutes after the collision, Joseph brought the Revs into a circle in an effort to refocus their minds.
“I told them to just keep their heads up and focus on the game,” said Joseph of the message to his teammates. “You can’t do anything about it – it happened and you just go out there and do it for Preston … just hold your head up and play soccer.”
Considering the situation, the Revs responded well, especially in an effort to protect second-year goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who was forced into making his MLS debut under trying circumstances. They held on to the 2-1 lead into the halftime break and regrouped with the guidance of head coach Steve Nicol.
“From the time [the injury] happened until halftime, I think was the most important time,” said Nicol. “You could see how upset players on both sides were, particularly Sainey (Nyassi) and (Joseph) Niouky, so they did well and gathered themselves as well as they could. Unfortunately, there was a game to be played after that, so we just went out and made sure we were doing this for Preston.”
New York evened the score shortly after the break when Juan Pablo Angel’s close-range header left Shuttleworth with no chance, but the response by the Revolution was deserving of the full three points. New England was aided by a pair of ejections to Red Bulls players – Carlos Mendes in the 56th minute and Roy Miller in the 75th minute – but the hosts valiantly pressed forward in search of a game-winner. They found it in the 80th minute when Zack Schilawski snapped home a header to register his team-leading fifth goal of the season.
“I’m very proud,” said Joseph. “We tried to hold our heads up high and keep battling. With injuries, a lot of people don’t want to watch and a lot of people can’t deal with it. We’ve got a young group on this team and for them to step up like that – for us to step up like that – and keep battling and keep playing shows this team has character and a lot of heart.”
Just as they needed to maintain focus on the field on Saturday night, the Revs will now have to turn their attention to next weekend’s visit to Seattle Sounders FC. Looking to build some momentum entering the two-week break for the group stage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Revolution will have a chance to make it two wins in a row in the Pacific Northwest.
“It was good to get a win,” said rookie defender Seth Sinovic, who returned to the starting lineup after missing out for the first time this season last weekend in Toronto. “Obviously it’s been a long time and [winning] is what makes the game fun, first and foremost. It’s so much more fun when you’re winning games and hopefully we can turn this into a streak.”