VANCOUVER, BC – The start of a new year is often seen as a time for new beginnings – an opportunity to leave the past behind and wipe the slate clean.
In other words, it offers a fresh start – and Omar Salgado could certainly use one. A fractured right foot prevented Salgado from playing a single match in 2013. Suffice to say, he’s glad that it’s over.
“It was a really tough year,” Salgado told whitecapsfc.com. “You start believing you’re never going to play again. It’s mentally draining. It was a difficult thing to go through … something I don’t want to go through again.”
Fortunately, it appears as though Salgado has turned the corner on what was a year to forget. The 20-year-old said it’s been about a year and a half since his foot has felt as good as it does now – he first broke it back in June 2012.
The club has given him a clean bill of health and Salgado feels he’s ready to “make a big impact” in 2014.
“This is a really important year for me,” said Salgado, whose injuries have limited him to just seven appearances over the last two seasons. “This is my fourth year in Vancouver and I feel like the pressure is on me this time. I have to do well, show what I have, and ultimately produce.”
Salgado, who has been back in his hometown of El Paso, Texas since the beginning of December, said he can’t wait for the season to get going. He began training in full with the first team in October and stayed behind just over a month to work with Whitecaps FC head of sports medicine and science Rick Celebrini.
It was during that period that Salgado had a few encounters with Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash, who has been working with Celebrini as he recovers from nerve root irritation in his back.
“I got to watch him work and shoot around a little,” Salgado said of Whitecaps FC’s part owner. “He’s a great guy. I admire him a lot. He’s 38 and he still works out like a 20-year-old. You can really look up to someone like him.”
Since then, Salgado has continued his offseason workout regimen in El Paso. He usually spends around three hours a day training, whether it’s running, playing soccer with friends, or working out.
“I’m glad I got this extra two or three months to get ready for the season,” said Salgado, Vancouver’s first-ever pick in the MLS SuperDraft. “It’s been a long time so I just had to get everything right. Hopefully [the injury] is in the past and I can look forward now.”
That’s exactly what he’s been doing. The El Paso native said he’s excited about the core that’s in place and believes the ‘Caps can “accomplish something big” with new head coach Carl Robinson at the helm. The two have touched based this offseason and are on the same page regarding their expectations for the months ahead.
“He has high hopes for me,” Salgado said. “And I have high hopes for myself as well.”
Although Salgado has been primarily used as a winger during his time in Vancouver, it’s been suggested that he could also be a good fit as a target man up front to complement Whitecaps FC’s other strikers. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, he certainly fits the bill.
But after sitting on the sidelines for most of the past two seasons, Salgado said it doesn’t matter where they put him. He just wants to play.
“I just want to go out there, be the best I can be, and demonstrate that I can play at that level.”