Martin back on the pitch - The Vancouver Sun

Injury doesn't rob speedy fullback of his postive outlook

John Atkinson
Special to the Vancouver Sun

Demonstrating the same lightning pace and self-assurance usually reserved for his time on the soccer field, Lyle Martin is an engaging interviewee. And a very positive one.

Given the Vancouver Whitecaps right back recently missed a stretch of six games due to injury having played every second of every game of the season up to that point Martin could have been forgiven for feeling more than a little frustrated.

Not least since he also missed out on the team's recent road trip to the U.S. East Coast, which included a stop in Miami.

But the mature 23-year-old from California has remained stoically positive during his spell on the sidelines and resolutely focused on doing everything possible to heal his torn hamstring in record time.

While his teammates were on the road, Martin was regularly getting up close and personal with the club's physio treatment, which included lots of stretching, ice, heat and more ice topped off by lashings of eyeballs-out weight training.

The hard work has paid off, as the hamstring is now almost 100 per cent and Martin is set to make his return to the Whitecaps' starting 11 for the USL First Division top-of-the-table match against the Puerto Rico Islanders on Sunday (Swangard Stadium, 7 p.m.).

Martin helped spark a second-half comeback against the Atlanta Silverbacks last Sunday with his first appearance in seven games, as a substitute,] and is now close to A shape.

"The hamstring's getting there," Martin said. "Both the physios are working on that and keeping a close eye on me. I was working out twice a day, doing weights and as much as possible to get back as quickly as possible.

"Hopefully I can be 90-95 per cent for Sunday and then 100 per cent for when we go to Puerto Rico [the Whitecaps travel to the Islanders on Aug. 31]."

Martin admitted it was a tad frustrating to have an enforced spell on the sidelines having been injured only once before in his career, though he was subsequently quick to highlight the silver lining to this cloud.

"It was definitely a blow to get injured," he said. "Being a part of the team, they want and need you out there as much as possible. Plus, it's not much fun to sit and watch them and then have to go online to [see] the away games.

"But, at the same time, it gives other people the opportunity to get a little run, like Luca [Bellisomo]. He played well when he got in, with a goal and an assist. It shows that our bench is pretty deep and we can use guys off [it]."

Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson confirmed Martin was looking good for a return to the starting lineup against the Puerto Ricans.

The Bakersfield-born player will be ready, relishing the chance to lock horns with the vastly improved, free-scoring Islanders and keen to help Vancouver show their lofty league status is also merited.

"Puerto Rico have been doing extremely well and have a lot of players who can take care of business," he said. "So we have to come with our A game and not [start] slowly. As long as we come out ready to go, I think we can definitely take [the game] to them."

Midfielder Steve Kindel and forward Nick Addlery will be available after suspensions, though Kindel (toe) and captain Jeff Clarke (thigh) are nursing injuries and will have to pass fitness tests today.

© Vancouver Sun 2008