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New England Revolution’s Andrew Farrell returns after frightening eye injury

New England Revolution defender Andrew Farrell
New England Revolution defender Andrew Farrell has returned to the team after recovering from a detached retina. (Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Revolution defender Andrew Farrell is used to the typical wear and tear that comes with being a professional athlete, but was caught off guard by an uncommon and frightening injury he sustained during preseason that kept him on the sidelines for more than a month.

It all started with an innocuous ricochet during a preseason training session in Marbella, Spain. A ball came off a goal post and hit Farrell’s face in the middle of a drill. Though the pain was particularly bad in his left eye, the seven-year veteran didn’t think much of it at first.

Then he went partly blind.

“I couldn’t see out of my left eye for a full day, though I originally thought it was just because of swelling since it was extremely painful,” Farrell, who was on the bench for Sunday’s 3-2 loss at Toronto FC, told Pro Soccer USA. “But I knew it was serious when I could only see out of my right eye, looked in the mirror and saw that my left eye was wide open.”

Doctors diagnosed Farrell with a torn retina and told him to keep off the field and participate in limited training sessions. Returning too soon, they warned, could result in surgery that would require him to miss the entire season or worse – going permanently blind in his left eye.

“It was a reality check, that’s for sure,” Farrell said. “The doctor really put things in perspective.”

That said, being restricted from most activities was a sharp departure from the norm for Farrell. Not only is he one of the Revolution’s most athletic players, but he’s also appeared in at least 30 games per season since he entered the league.

“I felt frustrated because I felt like I could play,” he said. “It was difficult to be around the guys and not participate, so it felt good when I got cleared by the doctor late last week to join the team in Toronto.”

The Revolution (0-2-1, 1 point) have deployed second-year defender Brandon Bye at right back to cover for Farrell, though head coach Brad Friedel will likely be able to give Farrell a legitimate shot at starting against FC Cincinnati on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Farrell lauded Bye’s performance Tuesday and also said he saw many positives from the team’s first three games of the season. He also feels like the current group is more bought into Friedel’s vision of the team and understands the “mentality” Friedel has been harping on since last year.

“Some of the guys who maybe didn’t buy in are obviously not here anymore, but I think everyone on the team has bought in,” Farrell said. “With mentality, what he means is being able to manage tough, in-game situations.

“We don’t want to overthink anything or freak out, we want to manage a game. The mentality depends on the player and on a few different things, it’s about being able to adapt and be comfortable in any situation, or not to get hung up on a formation – 4-5-1, or 4-2-3-1, or whatever. It starts with being bought in.”

The Revolution will have to practice what they preach against Cincinnati on Sunday.

The expansion side is just three competitive games into its existence but is clearly no pushover: after losing its inaugural game at Seattle, the players quickly recovered and secured an away draw against reigning champions Atlanta United and then defeated the Portland Timbers, last year’s MLS Cup runner-up.

“They’re rolling after that win against Portland last weekend,” said Farrell. “They’re clearly a good team that we won’t underestimate. Honestly there are no easy games this season. And if we want to make the playoffs, we can’t drop points at home.”

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