With the American sports conscience fixated on South Africa and the 2010 World Cup for the last month, much talk has focused on how the U.S. team can improve upon its quarterfinal finish when the event moves to Brazil in 2014.
Improved coaching? Recruiting better players? Lessening distractions?
Either way, former IU standout and current member of the New England Revolution Kevin Alston hopes he’ll occupy a roster spot on the American team should it qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
“I’m definitely striving to play in a World Cup, and I hope I’m given that opportunity,” Alston said. “All I can really do is stay ready on my part and do what I need to do to put myself in the best position to perform.”
Alston has already participated in international competition, playing in the 2007 Pan Am Games with current Hoosier and former teammate Daniel Kelly. Their teamwork on the field was bolstered by a sense of friendship and camaraderie that manifested itself as the team gelled between games.
“It was a lot of good guys getting together, and it was a lot of fun,” Kelly said. “We learned a lot about each other.”
The learning process for Kelly included getting to know Alston’s likeable and multifaceted personality.
“Kevin likes to be a jokester,” Kelly said. “He has fun off the field, but when it comes to playing on the field, he’s serious. He’s just a good guy to be around.”
Alston’s professional career was preceded by a standout three-year run in Bloomington, where he helped the Hoosiers regain some of the national prominence the team enjoyed through much of the quarter century before Alston’s arrival.
IU won the Big Ten conference championship after Alston’s freshman season in 2006, and Alston went on to appear in 64 games in his career.
During his time in Bloomington, Alston was twice an All-Big Ten selection while helping to lead the team to a winning record and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament in each of his three seasons.
Alston left IU in 2008 after his junior season to pursue his dream of playing professionally for a Major League Soccer team. A year later, he was drafted by the New England Revolution with the 10th overall pick of the MLS SuperDraft.
Alston’s swift rise to the professional ranks fits right in with the pace of the game itself, which was the biggest adjustment he had to make after being drafted into the MLS, he said.
“The college game is pretty physical, but it doesn’t compare to the professional level because everyone is fit and strong and technically good,” Alston said. “The play is better all around, and it’s a lot quicker and there’s more pressure. Everything is elevated.”
In addition to adapting to the pace of the game, Alston has quickly learned that being a professional means more than just adjusting to changes on the field.
“It’s such a long season that you don’t realize all the little things really matter in the end,” Alston said. “It’s taking care of your body and stretching, hydrating yourself, recovering fast and doing all the things you have to do to make sure that you stay on the field and make it to the end of the season.”
With these tactics, Alston continues to hold up the reputation of a great defender that he cultivated while playing at Indiana.
“He’s one of the best defenders I’ve ever played with,” Kelly said. “He’s reliable, and he can play both sides of the ball really well.”
While Alston looks ahead to possibly playing for the United States in the 2014 World Cup, he continues to stay focused on his current role as an outside backer for the Revolution, constantly working and refusing to become stagnant even after realizing his dream.
“I think I’m still making progress and picking up off of last season,” Alston said. “I’m working on things day in and day out and trying to improve in all aspects.”