Tom Heinemann
Kelley L Cox/USA Today Sports Images

'Caps striker thankful as he makes return to full health

VANCOUVER, BC – The journey from injury and back to Major League Soccer life finally looks on course for Vancouver Whitecaps FC striker Tom Heinemann.

The ‘Caps picked up the lanky 25-year-old in January after Columbus Crew dumped him – this following a 2012 season in which he played just five minutes of league action before suffering a knee injury which needed microfracture surgery to resolve.

Heinemann has come off the bench in Vancouver’s last couple of games – both matches tied 1-1 at the time – and with his 6-foot-4 frame, he is always a physical menace and a threat in the air.

Yes, it’s just been nine minutes of official game time, but given where the target man was after tearing cartilage at the end of his femur on his right knee in March 2012, those are minutes much cherished.

 “You struggle with doubt,” Heinemann recalled after initially learning of the extent of his injury. “You struggle with, ‘oh, is my body going to be the same?’ Especially to a higher degree with more serious injuries, but even with this, a lot of NBA players go through this…the recovery process has been such an important piece of the puzzle for me, just really taking my time the whole time with it.

“Just because I want to do the best thing to benefit me down the line in my career. I’m thankful to God I had a good surgeon do the operation and that the recovery has gone smoothly.”

The recovery process for this sort of injury is usually nine months to a year, so Heinemann is on track and his next challenge becomes trying to force himself into a more regular role and get more minutes.

“My goal – no pun intended – is to try to contribute goals to the squad,” Heinemann said. “That’s something that’s been probably my favourite part of the game ever since I started playing, is scoring goals.

“So hopefully as I continue to work on my fitness and work hard in training, that’ll show up on the field and I’ll be able to contribute to the team.”

For a team struggling offensively right now with just seven goals scored from its first six matches, Heinemann’s strength and stature certainly offers a different sort of look if head coach Martin Rennie decides on playing a more direct style.

“In the final third we’ve got a lot better options than we had before,” Rennie told recently. “Heinemann with his height and aggression is different to what we had before.”