VANCOUVER, BC - The date was Sunday, June 26.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Déiber Caicedo woke up and thought to himself ‘today is going to be a good day’.
The native of Barbacoas, Colombia was starting in a key home match for the ‘Caps against Eastern Conference foes New England Revolution, looking to rack up points in the always-busy summer stretch of the MLS regular season.
Caicedo was going into the home tilt having scored his first goal of the year at FC Dallas in the Blue and White’s previous MLS match, as he fired home a stunning free-kick at the top of the box to give his team a 2-0 advantage on the stroke of halftime.
"We know that it's difficult to play away from home [in this league] and win at a stadium like Dallas'," said Caicedo, "I practice free kicks a lot here after training on our fields and it's thanks to the work I put in that I was able to score a beautiful goal that day but most importantly helped the team to a win."
At the time, Caicedo had also tallied a team-leading four assists across all competitions.
Just 15 minutes into the match against New England, Caicedo contested a 50/50 aerial ball and felt something weird in his right knee.
At first, the Colombian didn’t believe it was anything serious but five minutes later, Caicedo signalled to the ‘Caps bench asking for a substitution and went straight to the locker room to get a diagnostic check from a doctor.
“It was like my mind was clouded. I knew something wasn’t right," recalled Caicedo, "In that moment, I connected with God and my family, hoping that it wouldn’t be something too serious."
Once the medical team completed the check on Caicedo, they revealed he would need surgery for a meniscus tear in his right knee.
It marked the first time in the young Colombian's career he'd have to face the reality of a long-term injury.
"My mind was super clouded honestly, I could only think 'God, why? Why me? Why this? What am I doing wrong?' because I was in a moment during the season where I was really good, I knew I was going to find the best version of myself because at the start [of the season] it wasn’t the best version of myself," explained Caicedo.
"It happened in that moment where we had a very important match which was the Canadian Championship Final that I wanted to play. Everything clouded me, honestly I didn’t understand, there was a silence, there were people around me and I didn’t feel like anything was around me. It was a really traumatic moment for me, a very difficult one, very difficult to remember it as well.”
On July 7, Caicedo underwent successful surgery in his right knee and began his road to recovery as he was placed on the 'Caps MLS season-ending injury list.
"It cost me a lot to accept [the injury] but now I'm a lot more calm, I've accepted it. I'm doing everything that the club, the medical team at the club, are telling me to do to come back stronger and power through this injury."
Caicedo says it's not just the medical team that have supported him throughout his recovery. It stretches from his teammates, coaches and other club staff to his family and friends in Colombia, feeling every inch of support that's come his way.
For example, during the 'Caps final two weeks of training following the end of the MLS regular season, Caicedo reached a big milestone in his recovery as he returned to the pitch to do field work for the first time since suffering his injury, receiving a massive mid-training applause from his teammates.
"They were super glad I touched the pitch again, that motivated me even more to come back quicker and better," recalled Caicedo.
"I want to repay them for everything they've done for me."
The 'Caps also gave Caicedo the chance to go back to Colombia in September to ease his mind off his injury and reunite himself with his family, something he dearly appreciates.
"There were moments were I felt really empty, I'm really close with my sisters, my family and I think I needed to see them, almost like recharge myself with them to come back with a stronger, different mentality to keep recovering," noted Caicedo.
"The club supported me with that and I'm really thankful to them for giving me the chance to do so."
Caicedo will hope to be back with the team for preseason and is primed to get back on the field in 2023 to achieve his goals as well as the club's objectives.
"I hope to comeback at 100 percent, be okay, get better in some aspects of my game and go for everything," stated Caicedo, "I want to win trophies and leave my stamp here at this club. My dream is to give back to the club for everything they've done for me, try to support the team wherever I can, try to win things in the upcoming year and not just be satisfied with playoffs so that means going for trophies like we did this past year."
In his own words, and in his always-present smile, Caicedo says 2023 will be 'the year of Déiber'.
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