Sunday, April 13, 2014
Alston makes first career goal count
By Brian O'Connell
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It only stood to reason that Kevin Alston's first career goal in MLS could hardly be called scripted.
Alston, who entered Saturday's contest goal-less during his six-year career, ostensibly scored off a broken play that certainly didn't materialize the way it should have to steer the Revolution to a 2-0 win over the Dynamo.
Kevin Alston celebrates his first career MLS goal, the game winner to ultimately beat Houston.
Looking to break the 0-0 deadlock in the 68th minute, the speedy fullback tried to play a give-and-go with Daigo Kobayashi yards before the box. But the return pass caromed off Kofi Sarkodie before it fell back to Kobayashi, who nudged it forward to Teal Bunbury. With Alston still in the area, Bunbury pushed it ahead, where Alston unleashed a furious shot that lodged itself under the bar.
"It's just one of those things where it didn't happen [the way it was supposed to]," Alston said. "I just tried to stay in a good spot and stay onside and stay in the play. I was fortunate to just get that bounce that came right to me and [thought] 'Let me just take this shot.'"
Alston, who'd seen so many of his shots soar high or wide over the course of his six-year career, finally pulled the goal-scoring gremlin off his back on Saturday. What's more, the elusive goal came in a match that he probably wouldn't have started.
After starting left back Chris Tierney was ruled out of Saturday's match with a hip injury, the six-year veteran Alston was called upon to fill Tierney's spot. Even more improbable: Not only was Alston coming off an injured hamstring suffered in the season opener, but it was his first start at home in more than a year after he was diagnosed with a rare but treatable form of leukemia.
Nevertheless, the match started off especially promising for Alston. The 25-year-old fullback found plenty of space to roam out wide in the early going. Of course, it may have helped that an injury to Brad Davis forced Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear to change tactics on Saturday.
But what Alston did with the opportunities to catalyze the attack was an effort that belonged to him, and him alone. And while he may have nearly put the ball into his own net early in the first half, Alston had the full support of Revolution assistant coach Tom Soehn to press the issue whenever possible.
"We talked at halftime," Soehn said. "[Houston] left a lot of space for Kevin to attack, and I think Kevin just needed the confidence to really take those spaces."
As the game progressed, that's exactly what Alston did. When Houston started to hem in the Revolution around the right flank, the ball was often switched over to the left, where Alston was waiting with plenty of green around him.
After shots from Bunbury, Diego Fagundez, and Saer Sene each failed to find the back of the net, Alston, who hadn't scored in 122 MLS matches prior to Saturday's game, found himself taking the biggest one of his career in the 68th minute.
With the encouragement of Soehn surely in the back of his of his mind, Alston found Kobayashi central and used his trademark speed to race toward the spot where he anticipated the ball to be. Though it was temporarily held up, the ball eventually found him. With the kind of shot that would make a fullback salivate in front of him, Alston, for the first time in his career, would not be denied.
And the sensation of seeing the ball finally reach the back of the net could be seen in the way he celebrated by racing to the corner flag with newfound spring in his step. As he waved his teammates over to join him in the moment, he let out a primal, jubilant yell.
"[It was] amazing," Alston said. "To finally break the seal -- it's six years later, and I'm just glad it's finally here, and I can say I at least scored one in my career."
Not too far away from the sea of navy blue jerseys that converged upon Alston was Soehn, who looked on with pride for the speedy fullback he knew could very well change the game.
"I was real happy for him that it came because he's got a lot of tools," Soehn said. "The guy's fast, and just [having] the confidence to beat guys, and him scoring is going to help that confidence."