FOXBOROUGH - This has been an significant week in the comeback of Joe Franchino, who has not played a full game for the Revolution since 2006.
Franchino entered as a late substitute for Gary Flood in the 3-1 win at Kansas City Wednesday, his first appearance in an MLS game since May 19, 2007. The next day, Franchino captained the Revolution reserve team, performing for 90 minutes.
"It felt good to play, it was the first time I've played 90 minutes in a long time," Franchino said yesterday.
Franchino has been training at full speed after recovering from surgery for a peroneal tendon injury to his right foot that caused him to miss all but three games last season. And Franchino appears set to continue his return when the Revolution host the Colorado Rapids tonight.
"I've always had adversity in my career," Franchino said. "I know I can still play in this league. I still have a lot in the tank and fire in my belly. So, I'm just going to keep training hard and try to stay healthy.
"I know I have a lot left to give. I have a lot left in these legs, no matter what anyone else says."
Franchino was injured in a clash with Chicago's Nate Jaqua as the Revolution took a 2-1 win over the Fire in a playoff match Oct. 28, 2006. Though Franchino continued to perform after going down, he was clearly affected by the injury.
"I thought it was a sprain at the time," Franchino said. "But I've put all of that behind me."
Indeed, though it turned out the injury was far more serious than Franchino thought, he continued to perform in the '06 playoffs and into last season before undergoing surgery in June.
"Of course," Franchino said when asked if he had been frustrated by the injury. "It was tough. I wanted to come out here and support my teammates."
Which is just what Franchino has been doing. Franchino's presence often seems to increase the intensity level of practice sessions and helps the focus of other players. Franchino took an interest in the battle for the starting position on the left side of midfield between Mauricio Castro and Khano Smith.
"I try to lift players up in training," Franchino said. "With Khano being challenged by Castro, I told him he should take it personally, he should come out here and compete for the position."
Newcomers such as Castro have reinvigorated the Revolution and supplemented the team's depth. Three 19-year-olds (Amaechi Igwe, Kenny Mansally, Sainey Nyassi) started for the Revolution against the Wizards.
"With all the injuries, they could have laid down in that game," Franchino said. "They were in the same position I was in, but they got the opportunity to play, and now Stevie [Nicol] has some tough decisions to make when people get healthy.
"The talent is a lot better than when I first came in the league. When I started playing [with Los Angeles], there were 18-man rosters and 13 or 14 guys could play. Now, it's 28-man rosters and everyone is fighting for jobs. The league has come a long way and it can only keep getting better, as long as the coaches bring in the right guys for their system and are able to find talent. The coaches here have always brought in good players."
Franchino has played in 162 regular-season games for the Revolution, one more than Steve Ralston and second to Jay Heaps (191) on the franchise list . . . Defender Chris Albright (ankle) and midfielder Jeff Larentowicz (suspension) are set to return to the starting lineup and midfielder Wells Thompson (heel) will be available for the first time since a March 16 preseason game against CD Marathon.
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.