Their stories, their emotions, their words.
That, in a nutshell, is what this series on whitecapsfc.com is all about. What better way to get to know the 'Caps – your 'Caps – than to hear from them directly. No filter. No fluff.
Just their words.
“Why? Not now. Please God, not now!”
The only words flooding through my head were ones of denial, fear, pain, and anger. I’ll admit, anger was the most prevalent. In four days, I would possibly be playing in what I believed was the biggest game of my career – of my life.
It was what I had been training my ass off for.
The past five months had been devoted to this single 90 minutes and now they were gone, with a single wrong step of my foot.
This is my third season as an MLS player, and it has not been an easy two before that. I had made appearances and played well, but they had been short-lived. I had not lived up to my expectations and the expectations of being drafted third overall in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.
In my mind, the two previous years were failures.
And I was out to prove – to myself and others – that I wasn’t a failure.
Preseason was my proving ground. I came in as one of the fittest players on the squad. I was ready. Everyone saw that I was ready. And for about two months, I proved to myself that I was worthy of being drafted at that number three spot. Then on March 2nd, it happened.
GIMME A BREAK
I was going up for a header in training. I took a step with my left foot. It twisted.
Then I took a step with my right and elevated off the ground. I felt no pain, had no idea that with my first step I had broken the fifth metatarsal in my left foot. Then I landed.
The outside of the left foot went over the sole of my boot. My foot twisted again and I felt a pop. This is when denial hit. I knew what had just happened, but I didn’t want to believe it.
Not me. Not now.
I continued to play. But just three minutes later, I had pushed all I could push. My tank was empty and reality slapped me from denial into fear.
Fear is not a pleasant state of mind.
I automatically jumped to the conclusion that my season was over – that I had failed and would not be able to prove myself otherwise. I was scared of my parents’ reactions and how hurt they would be by the news. I was scared that I wouldn’t come back the same player.
I am still scared that I won’t be that same player.
I was afraid that the injury could be worse than it seemed and that I wouldn’t be able to continue playing professionally – or at all. That’s where my head went. I was lost in a sea of purely negative thoughts. The worst outcomes raced through my mind in a never ending loop.
All this was taking place minutes after the initial break.
I let all these thoughts mix in my mind until they snowballed and became pain. My mind was a storm, and it hurt deep down in the depths of my existence. I was in pain – physically and emotionally – and I didn’t want to show it. I tried to lock it in, to keep it hidden from my coaches and my teammates.
But as I walked off the field, I couldn’t help but lash out at one of the plastic poles we use for drills, striking it with my fist. Because it was the pole’s fault, of course.
This honestly felt good.
But then I realized that my fear and pain had mixed into anger – and it was trying its best to seduce me.
Anger was my final step in the process. After this, there was nothing but a sea of red awaiting for me to plunge into its depths. I was on the high dive and teetering at the edge.
I knew if I let this feeling overwhelm me right then I would break down. I didn’t want to crumble in front of my teammates, in front of my coaches. I wanted to be strong, I wanted to show no weakness.
Nothing that anyone could exploit once I returned to health – if I returned to health.
So there I was sitting on the bench, my shirt pulled up over my face, buried into the palms of my hands. What just happened? The last few minutes were a blur. I don’t remember a single word that was said to me – or that I said – during that time. But I remember every emotion.
Eventually, I hopped onto the medical cart and got a ride back to our training and treatment facility – but not before I looked back at the field to see my teammates huddled around the coaching staff in the middle of the field. I wanted to be with them so bad at that moment.
I had wanted nothing more in my life.
It took me about a month after the initial break to realize that it wasn’t the end of the world. I would be back. So I pushed myself, harder than I had previously. I worked hard and focused solely on my return to the pitch. Seven days a week I was doing something.
Three months later, I was back.
I felt like I was flying again during my first training session. Then came that fateful second day.
You know when you wake up and something just seems like it’s bound to go wrong? Well, this wasn’t one of those days. This day was my day and I was going to own it.
Didn’t quite work out that way.
It was just a simple cut and turn. That was it. Just a turn.
But it wasn’t meant to be. My cleats got stuck. My knee buckled in. My body’s weight collapsed on my knee, and I felt them. Two pops, one in my knee, and one in my ankle.
I lay face down on our training pitch. Robbo: “Deaner, you okay?”
I couldn’t answer.
I don’t even remember if I could think of a word at that moment. My head was gone. I was no longer in my own body, I was already laying on an operating room table waiting for the doctor to slice me open and go through that whole recovery process again.
The funny thing is I had already started working on this piece about the rehabilitation process for my broken foot and all the emotions that I had gone through while dealing with that.
Now, I’m writing about another injury. LOL right?
Maybe it’s karma or maybe it’s just a case of bad luck. Not entirely sure.
Here’s what I know. Excuse my language, but I was told at a young age that “s**t happens.” Whether good or bad, it’s going to happen regardless and there’s no point trying to change the past. That’s impossible. Isn’t it?
This is possibly the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I saw everything that I had worked for during the offseason ripped right from my grasp. I never thought I would have ended up in this situation. Lucky and somehow unlucky at the same time, but I can’t complain about the end result.
I had surgery not too long ago and the knee is stable and healthy. If not for the ankle, I would most likely be back out on the field in the coming weeks.
Now, it will take a bit longer, but it’s not the worst.
It could have been my MCL or ACL. It could have been career ending (*knock on wood), but it wasn’t and for that I am thankful.
I am thankful every day that I get to wake up and play the sport that I love. I am thankful that I get to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I am thankful that I get to play with my best friends and now my family. And I am thankful that I get to play for the best club in MLS.