FOXBOROUGH - For nearly a month, Clyde Simms was forced to watch the Revolution from the club level at Gillette Stadium.
Tendinitis in his left ankle, which crept up after the 4-1 win over Vancouver May 12, turned the midfielder into a spectator.
But while he was out, he was able to see things he couldn’t when he was in the middle of the action.
“You can see everything,’’ he said. “It’s so easy to see things up there that you can’t see.’’
Simms noticed different spaces opening up. He watched how Shalrie Joseph, his partner in the middle, worked with Benny Feilhaber, who emerged while Simms was out. He saw how the Revolution would struggle when teams would send more players to the middle. He saw things he knew he could change once he returned.
“It was very helpful for me to sit up there and watch,’’ Simms said. “I got to see four games and see some things we were doing right, some things we were doing wrong, and I feel much better mentally coming out here.
“I think it’s good as a player to be able to sit up top and watch. I think when you are in a rhythm, the game becomes kind of a cluster in your head. The more and more you’re training every single day you start to complicate things. When you’re able to sit up top and watch, you realize how simple the game of soccer really is. The key is not to overcomplicate it.’’
His ankle finally healthy, Simms will have a month’s worth of mental notes stored when he returns to the field Saturday as the visiting Revolution face Toronto FC.
Before Simms went down, he was arguably the Revolution’s best player, racing back and forth to manage crises. He started the first 10 games of the season.
“He puts out a lot of fires,’’ said goalie Matt Reis. “His soccer intelligence is great. He’s someone that you’ve seen earlier on during the season how important he is for us. It’s just a lot easier if you have someone of his caliber in there all the time.’’
Simms still can’t pinpoint when the ankle began to bother him. When he left the field after the Vancouver game, he said the ankle felt fine. But the next morning, it was swollen.
“I couldn’t even walk on it,’’ he said. “I don’t know what it was.’’
He assumed once the swelling disappeared, the pain would, too. It didn’t.
“Whenever I’d do too much on it, even if I just walked around during the day too much, it would be really sore the next day,’’ Simms said. “When I woke up in the morning, I couldn’t really put pressure on it.’’
Without him, the Revolution went 1-1-2. Coach Jay Heaps was cautious about working Simms back in, playing him 24 minutes with the reserve team last week against Columbus, and targeting Saturday as a return.
“He’s a calming presence,’’ said Heaps. “Not so much a rah-rah, go-get-’em kind of guy, because he plays more subtle than that. Kind of that calm demeanor, putting out fires with him on the field was missed.
“We thought it was going to be too much of a push for him to get him back for this past weekend. That was why with the reserve game, you love the reserve league because you’re able to control some minutes. We targeted that date as the next step, then to see where that went going into this game. Last week was good for us on a Sunday, everything checked off and he felt good, and I think this week we’re pushing him a little bit further. I believe he’ll be ready to go.’’
Simms’s return coincides with the likely absence of Joseph, who suffered an adductor strain in last Saturday’s draw with Columbus.
“It just always seems to work out that way,’’ Reis said.
Heaps said he’s had conversations with Joseph about the importance of being cautious and not making the injury worse.
“I know the mind-set, I’ve seen it,’’ Heaps said. “It’s not just, ‘How are you doing? How are you feeling?’ We’re having longer, harder conversations than that. But he’s not an easy person to have a little pull or a knock, because he continues to fight through it. I think now it’s just more about trying to convince him that, though you love the mentality, we have to be thinking long term about the entire season, the risk and reward.’’Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.