At today's training session, the Portland Timbers midfield maestro, Diego Valeri, spoke to the press for the first time since the preseason, talking about his recovery from the surgery to repair the torn ACL he suffered in the final match of the 2014 season.
As he addressed the press after practice, Valeri looked lean and fit, having worked off an offseason's worth of forced immobility under the watchful eye of fitness coach Nick Milonas.
"The first few days after the injury, for me, was the worst part, the hardest part of the rehab," Valeri told the press. "You are so painful, you cannot walk well, you feel so bad. That is the hardest part of the injury."
Since the injury, Valeri has been hard at work on his rehabilitation, focused and working hard in the gym and on the field to return to the match fitness. For Valeri, however, it has been difficult watching his teammates play and not being able to contribute.
"The most difficult has been on the weekend. The training has been good. We are training hard. You don't feel any difference there. But on the weekend you can feel the difference and that is sad, but I am happy because we are close to being back."
Asked if he watches the games like a fan or if he is more analytical, Valeri told the press, "It is really hard for me to watch the games on the side. I get nervous every single game."
Helping him through his six month recovery has been Valeri's family, even calling in reinforcements from Argentina.
"My family is helping me a lot with this," said Valeri. "My mother-in-law came here to help us, too. I try to do my best, but it is hard."
Of course, Valeri has previous experience coming back from a torn ACL. This time, however, the process has been easier.
"It is very different," Valeri said when asked about his first recovery from ACL surgery. "It was ten years ago. The surgery is not so different, but the rehab is very different. That time I couldn't walk for two months. This rehab I could train after the first month. It made me feel better."
Now that he is nearing the end of the months long process, Valeri simply looks happy as he talks about the time since he rejoined the rest of the team in training at the start of last week.
"The last then days? The best. The best moment. The last week, I would say, we started to introduce with the team. Like I always say, soccer is a game to play with teammates, so that is good for me. It made me happy."
Not everything makes the Timbers' star happy, though.
Said Valeri with a grin on his face, "Everything that I do in the gym is the worst. I like to train on the field."
Valeri is expected to be ready to for his first in-game minutes in early May.
Public Service Announcement: During Valeri's interview, Caleb Porter stopped by, put his arm around Valeri, and told the press that he would be starting this weekend. He was clearly joking.
Practice was closed for the first hour today, but opened up to the press with the Timbers still running a series of 5v5+1 matches with keepers. Playing a round-robin tournament, the Timbers had four teams facing off against each other in brief but intense matches.
In the early going Valeri and Will Johnson were the "+1's" acting as distributors with no contact allowed for either. For the final matches of the tournament, however, the pair headed to the sideline to work with one of the team's trainers.
With the first team players spread out throughout the four teams on display, there were a number of impressive displays in the tight quarters. With plenty of goals being scored through tricky dribbling and quick passing, however, the moment that stood out had to be Jack Jewsbury's leaping block on the goal line, just getting a foot in the way of a Ishmael Yartey shot.
Injuries and Absences
Michael Nanchoff was on the sidelines today, continuing to work with a trainer as he recovers from surgery to repair a sports hernia. Nanchoff was buoyed on by compliments to his hair from the press corps as he pulled a weight sled down the pitch.
Ben Zemanski was not on hand at training today as he continues his recovery from ACL surgery.
The Timbers' T2 loanees, with the exception of Jake Gleeson, were not with the first team today, instead practicing only with T2.
Trialists and Guest Players
T2 players Justin Luthy and Anthony Manning were on hand at training today.
Danny O'Rourke continued his training with the team as a guest player today.
Santiago Biglieri and Brent Richards both took part in the early stages of T2 training today.