On the soccer field, all can change in the blink of an eye.
One moment you’re mired in a scoreless match. The next minute, elation at a game-changing goal. Or, consequently, devastation at the back-breaking deficit created by an instant of brilliance from an opponent.
Recent signee Blair Gavin learned the hard way that the same rule applies off the field, too.
At 24 years old, a car accident had him contemplating retirement, but now – as can also happen on the field – he has been given a second chance. An opportunity to get fit and prove that he can still be the player that teams clamored for when he came out of college in 2010.
“When I got in the accident and hurt my back, it just kind of felt like the whole world was against me,” Gavin said. “I thought the easier way would just go and maybe start coaching or go back to college. It was a lot of soul searching and I fought through it and trained hard and kept going, and now I’m here. What else can I ask for?”
Gavin was scheduled to join Sounders FC in preseason training camp in January, but a back injury resulting from the off-season car accident left him unable to participate. Rather than try his luck at the MLS level while knowing that he wasn’t near full strength, he instead went through the arduous rehab process in his native California and in Bradenton, Florida, at the IMG Academy, where he played in the PDL with Bradenton Academics.
After his season ended, he came to Seattle to start training and has eased his way into the team.
Last week, Sounders FC signed Gavin and Head Coach Sigi Schmid said the idea was to get him ready to contend for playing time in 2014 and if they could get him on the field this year, it would just be a bonus.
“I just think he needed to get back into day-to-day training with an MLS team to get back to the level he was at,” Schmid said. “When he came out of college, he was a guy we were very interested in and we think he can get back to that level.”
Gavin was filled with optimism when he was drafted 10th overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.
He was joining a Chivas USA side that was the fourth seed in the playoffs in 2009 and was stocking up on talent in anticipation of losing U.S. National Teamers Jonathan Bornstein and Sacha Kljestan, who went to Mexico and Belgium, respectively. He had three goals and one assist through the first 17 matches of the season, but suffered a hamstring injury in September, an injury that recurred in 2011, causing him to miss two months in his second season, too.
He continued to show promise, but Nick LaBrocca’s emergence limited his playing time and he was traded to the New England Revolution midway through the 2012 season.
Before he learned the details of the trade, Gavin was told that he had been traded to New England and his first thought was of looking forward to working with Shalrie Joseph, only to learn that he was going to Chivas in the swap.
Now in Seattle, he is training with the four-time MLS Best XI midfielder and learning bits of his craft along the way.
“We laughed about it. I think it’s kind of funny that we both ended up here, but I’m glad,” Gavin said. “It’s fun to just train with him and learn from him, just his ability to push pressure and make an impact every time he steps on the field.”
With three goals and five assists in 42 career MLS matches, Gavin is optimistic again that he can be the player teams envisioned in 2010. He sees his opportunity in Seattle as a chance to realize his full potential.
“It just feels like a good fit. Everything about it,” he said. “I have all the tools in front of me now. It’s whether or not I go and take them.”