Playing indoor soccer last Saturday – the old guy co-ed league, consisting of aging dudes and younger gals who can still play – and my buddy goes down in the middle of the field and doesn’t get up. No contact or anything, I wasn’t really watching the play, and there he lies. A wince and a grimace. “It’s my knee,” he says, “I felt the pops.” And this friend would know, having torn his ACL years ago when we were playing pick-up basketball. Now, he hasn’t gone to the doctor yet, but we’re pretty sure he’s looking at surgery and a long rehab.
A similar injury happened last week to Arsenal winger, Theo Walcott. Walcott, a much younger guy in the prime of his career, will now miss the rest of the English Premier League season as well as England’s run at the World Cup next summer. His ACL will need major repairs, and Arsenal and English fans clench their teeth in frustration as he was one of their more dynamic players.
Meanwhile, across the map in Southern California, USA Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called in 26 players for the first of several pre-World Cup training camps. This camp, comprised completely of MLS-based players and Mix Diskerud from Norway, will train all month, travel to Brazil for a facilities dress-rehearsal, and close back in Cali with a friendly against South Korea. And we should all acknowledge that we have officially entered the pre-World Cup injury watch window. Though athletes never talk about injuries, these players, somewhere in their subconscious, have thoughts about their knees, legs, ankles, and feet. Because if you go down now, you may not recover in time.
It happens every cycle. Last time out, it was Oguchi Onyewu and Charlie Davies. Previous cycles saw stalwarts like Chris Armas and John O’Brien lose their spots. Now that the draw is behind us, injuries are the final big variable in the equation. You hope your guys make it next June relatively healthy. You hope veterans like Steve Cherundolo and Stuart Holden, currently injured players who’d certainly be on that roster, can somehow recover in time. You wince when you see the big collisions and rash tackles on match day.
As for me – my goal is to make it through the current indoor season unscathed, after which, like all aging players, I will seriously consider retirement.