VANCOUVER, BC – There was a point in time not long ago when Omar Salgado was thought to be a can’t-miss Major League Soccer prospect.
That was certainly the opinion of Vancouver Whitecaps FC when the club made him their first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection back in 2011.
Evidently, the club had a lot of faith in Salgado back then, and despite a devastating run of injuries that has kept him out of the lineup for most of the past two seasons, they haven’t given up hope.
“It’s pretty depressing if you’re a player and you’re injured … and as a young player when you’re just trying to find your way in life and in your career, it’s obviously been a really rough start for him,” Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie told reporters last week. “We really hope that he can get himself better and that he can show the potential that we all believe he has. He’s a fantastic player and someone we believe in. We hope we can get him back.”
There’s still a long road ahead for Salgado, who has been out of the lineup with a fractured right foot since May, but he took a significant step in his recovery late last week. For the first time in over four months, Salgado made an appearance at a ‘Caps training session, as he jogged along the sidelines and did some light work with head athletic trainer Jake Joachim.
“It was great to see him out on the field,” Rennie said. “That’s the next step for him. He’s been doing a lot of fitness and rehab type stuff. Hopefully he can get a good run at it.”
It’s about time something went Salgado’s way.
The El Paso, Texas native initially broke his foot while playing for the U.S. U-20 team in June 2012. Then, he suffered a setback in October 2012 just after returning to Vancouver's lineup. Most recently, Salgado re-fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot at a U.S. U-20 camp in April of this year before undergoing surgery in Santa Monica, California.
From there, it was a month and a half of straight crutches, about two weeks of weight-bearing crutches, a month in a boot, a few weeks of walking, and some rehab with Rick Celebrini, the club's head of sports medicine and science, before getting onto the field again.
Salgado talks about giving his all to the City of Vancouver
In total, the 19-year-old winger has made just 21 MLS appearances with Whitecaps FC over the past three seasons.
Sometimes, Salgado said he wonders why he’s been cursed with such bad injury luck.
“I don’t really understand what happens … but everything happens for a reason,” Salgado told whitecapsfc.com. “I’m just trying to stay positive and look at the big picture. I’m still young so hopefully next year, if I’m ready, I get a full year in. And from there, we’ll see.”
Despite being one of the club’s longest-tenured players – he’s one of only six current players who have been with the club since they joined MLS in 2011 – Salgado said he’s still getting to know some of his teammates.
After undergoing surgery, the duel American-Mexican citizen went home to spend some time and recover with his family in El Paso. He’s only been back in Vancouver for about a month and a half.
“I guess that’s the hardest part, you don’t really feel part of the team,” Salgado said. “But it’s gotten a lot better. I’ve gotten to know a couple of the guys that I haven’t met so it’s been good.”
Coming back to Vancouver has presented a different challenge, however. That’s the challenge of watching games from the press box at BC Place. Being so close to the action – and yet, so far – is something Salgado has struggled with.
“It’s pretty hard, to be completely honest,” he said. “You always want to be out there helping the team and it sucks when you can’t.”
“I miss it, for sure,” he added.
These days, Salgado said his foot is feeling “okay.” The 6-foot-4 forward said he was happy to get out of the boot and onto the field, but he knows the true test will come once he starts training again. However, at this point, it is still too early to put a timeline on when that will be.
Regardless, if he doesn't return this season, he knows it won’t be the end of world. Salgado turns 20 on Tuesday. He still has many years ahead of him.
The club hasn’t given up hope, and neither has he.
“I like the city, I like the team, I like being here,” Salgado said.
“I still think that I can succeed in this sport.”