VANCOUVER, BC – Carl Robinson’s first transaction as new Vancouver Whitecaps head coach back in December was the acquisition of midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy in the second stage of the 2013 MLS Re-Entry Draft.
Ballouchy is an eight-year veteran of Major League Soccer, but his appearances for San Jose had been limited to just five the past season after suffering two ACL injuries in the space of a year.
It’s been a long road back for Ballouchy, but he is finally ready to move on to the next stage of his career with Vancouver, making his first MLS appearance for nearly 14 months in Whitecaps FC’s 2-0 loss to Colorado Rapids on the weekend.
“It’s unbelievable to be able to get in and be around a MLS game,” Ballouchy told reporters after coming on for the last 20 minutes of the match. “It’s been a long time. When you [tear] your ACL and come back, and then tear it again, these are long-terms injuries.”
“A lot of players don’t really come back from those,” he continued. “Sometimes it’s mental, sometimes it’s physical. For me, it’s been a steep, steep hill, and I’m finally at the top and I’m playing. I’m happy that I’m playing but I’m disappointed that we lost.”
Coming out of Santa Clara University, Ballouchy was a Generation Adidas prospect and went second overall in the 2006 SuperDraft to Real Salt Lake. Spells in Colorado, New York (where he played alongside Robinson) and San Jose followed, but he is now happy to be with an exciting Vancouver side, high on young prospective talent but short on experienced MLS veterans.
With 186 MLS appearances and 13 goals to his name, Whitecaps FC are certainly getting such a player in Ballouchy and he hopes to share that knowledge of winning in the league to the locker room, as the 'Caps look to get back on track after a two out of sorts performances.
“[It’s the] little things. I bring hard work every day and I think you guys can see it in training. I try to do it quietly and sometimes it rubs off,” Ballouchy noted. “I think we need to get back to the simple things – work really hard and stick together, make sure we do the right things. I love this team, I love the guys. We get along great and that’s part of why we’ve had that success so far.”
Vancouver’s eight game unbeaten MLS run came to an end of Saturday. With only one point from their first two games back following the World Cup break, there’s been few positives for Robinson to take out of the past week. The return of Ballouchy is one of them and he's pleased to have someone who he refers to as "a proper player" available again as an important part of his squad.
“Mehdi’s had a tough two years,” Robinson told reporters after the game. “Back at one of his old clubs it was important I gave him that little carrot. He came on and did very well. He was bright, he was bubbly.”
“I wanted him to get on the ball and move the ball,” Robinson continued. “He put one or two crunching tackles in as well, which proves he’s back. It’s nice to have Mehdi back. It was a positive in a pretty tough day for us.”
It’s not too late to participate in the best sporting experience in Vancouver. Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including prorated season tickets ($202), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets, and a youth soccer half-season ticket. Single-match tickets start at $22, subject to applicable fees. For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.