FOXBOROUGH - The idea of not dressing for a game was too foreign a concept for the Revolution’s Blake Brettschneider.
He missed four games last year with D.C. United, three because he was injured.
That was the only excuse for not being one of the 18 players in uniform on game day.
“You don’t ever want to be off the 18,’’ he said. “You always want to be on the field.’’
So when he found himself sitting out four games this season after starting the first two, two things happened. First, he was disappointed. Second, he was motivated.
He pinpointed where things went wrong. He thought about at the mental ups and downs, then the physical, looking for anything he could change.
His diet. He cut out the takeout, started cooking better meals for himself.
“Five Guys will get you,’’ he said.
He had been going to bed anywhere from midnight to 2 a.m. He started turning the lights out at 10:30.
His practice habits.
He tried to be the first one on the field, getting touches on the ball. He stayed after, getting more reps.
“Even just in those three things, I saw changes almost immediately, within the first three or four days,’’ he said.
There were still players in front of him, specifically leading scorer Saer Sene and the Revolution’s major offseason signee, Jose Moreno.
But coach Jay Heaps couldn’t ignore the way Brettschneider worked.
“I think it showed,’’ Heaps said. “I think Blake has put in every effort he can.’’
Going into the May 5 matchup with Real Salt Lake, with Sene ill and the team thin at forward, Brettschneider caught a break. A starter again for the first time in weeks, he scored his first goal of the season, the Revolution’s only goal in a 2-1 loss, and since then he hasn’t let the spot go.
“I couldn’t wait,’’ he said. “That was something that I’d been waiting for for five or six weeks, ever since being left off the 18 the first time. That hurts. You never want to have that feeling.’’
He’s made four straight starts. The last two weeks he’s worked up top alongside Sene, a combination with which Heaps has grown comfortable.
“Blake has really started to become a forward for us that is hard to keep off the field,’’ Heaps said. “All the work that he does - and we continue to want him to get goals - but the work he does away from the [goal box] keeps us in a good defensive shape and allows us to play once we get it.’’
Even before he lost his spot as a starter, Brettschneider had a chip on his shoulder. He was D.C. United’s third pick in the second round of last year’s draft. He only lasted a year, notching a goal and two assists, before being released in the offseason.
“Surprised, a little angry, a little hurt,’’ he said. “I think for a younger player, it being my first time going through that, I wasn’t sure how to handle it. But I have a great support staff and group around me that made it a lot easer.’’
Brettschneider felt he had been uprooted, and if anyone could relate, it was Clyde Simms, who had played his entire career with United before parting ways this offseason. They were teammates in D.C. and now that they’re both with the Revolution, they’re roommates. Admittedly, Brettschneider said he had last week’s D.C. United game marked on his calendar. But Simms was there to talk him through the transition.
“He’s a great person to have when all that happened,’’ Brettschneider said. “The best piece of advice was probably, ‘You’ve got to go out there and show them why they made a mistake. Prove why you deserve to be here and don’t take anything too personally.’ ’’
Paying less attention to the past and more attention to detail has gotten Brettschneider back into a position where he’s contributing to a team fighting to stay in the hunt in the Eastern Conference with a matchup against longtime rival Chicago Saturday.
“I think it definitely has worked out,’’ he said. “It’s led to being a lot more focused, a lot more prepared for training, which carries over into games and you see the results.
“I think any time you’re a young player in this league, you have a lot to prove. Maybe not to everybody else but just to myself, to show that I can make it in this league day in and day out and be somebody that can be counted on to contribute to this team.’’