Like new signings: 5 injured players who could save their teams' seasons
In New England, Xavier Kouassi is more known for his injuries than for his soccer ability.
The Ivorian midfielder tore his ACL while still with his Swiss club just days after the Revolution announced him as a Designated Player signing in 2016, forcing him to miss his entire first MLS season.
But Kouassi bounced back to have a positive beginning to 2017, earning 10 starts in Jay Heaps’ ever-changing lineup, and made his biggest impact just before another injury forced him out.
As a substitute in the club’s May 31 match at Eastern Conference contenders NYCFC, Kouassi scored an 86th-minute equalizer to steal a point. After the match, it was discovered that Kouassi had injured his quadriceps, and he missed the team’s next five matches.
Of those five games, the Revolution won just one – a surprising upset of Toronto FC – before going on a four-game losing streak, being outscored by a combined 10-3 margin.
Kouassi returned as a substitute in the club’s win over the Galaxy last weekend, and New England will be hoping its Designated Player can provide the boost needed to vault back into playoff contention.
For the New York Red Bulls and Aurelien Collin, the 2017 season has been a string of frustrating injuries.
Red Bulls fans thought they had a fix for their inconsistent defense when Collin briefly returned in June, but the center back’s comeback was quickly derailed by yet another injury.
Collin suffered a groin problem in training in late April that forced him to miss seven straight matches. In those games, New York managed just seven points and kept no clean sheets. After making a brief return to the lineup for two games in June, Collin was injured yet again, suffering a hamstring strain that’s kept him on the injury report.
But now that Jesse Marsch has embraced something of a 5-4-1 system with the Red Bulls, Collin could add serious meat to the team’s defense. Marsch has been using winger/fullback Sal Zizzo as a makeshift center back and pushed promising holding midfielder Tyler Adams into a wingback role. Collin’s return could make for a more comfortable fit for all involved.
Despite their scorching start, the Portland Timbers have stumbled hard, and they need their captain more than ever.
Liam Ridgewell has been another in-and-out center back this season. A training injury in March forced him out for six games, and another knock in June has kept him out for another seven.
Ridgewell has played in nine games and missed 13 for Portland, providing enough of a sample size to show that the team is demonstrably less effective without him in the lineup.
In his absences, the Timbers have earned just 1.23 points and allowed 1.76 goals per game, compared to earning 1.55 points and allowing 1.44 goals per game when he starts. After his June 10 injury against FC Dallas, Portland rattled off a horrifying 0-3-3 run in its next six matches.
If the Timbers are to bounce back to the MLS Cup contenders they appeared to be at the start of the season, they need their captain to be a catalyst for change.