FRISCO – There was a very welcomed sight back on the training grounds this week for FC Dallas. Almost six months to the day removed from surgery to repair a torn Achilles’ tendon, Mauro Diaz was back running with his teammates and kicking a ball in drills – even if in a limited capacity.
“[Monday] was a special day for me,” he said after his first session back. “After multiple months of being injured, returning to the field and being with my teammates was very special.”
Diaz is still being limited in terms of the volume of drills he can do, and isn’t 100 percent when it comes to full-speed cutting and turning, but he’s back on the field kicking the ball around with his teammates and that’s a huge step in a sometimes lonely road back.
“To be injured is always difficult in the life of an athlete,” Diaz added. “It’s inevitable, but I try to take it in the best way possible with the support of my teammates and my family. I’m towards the end of injury and I hope to return as soon as possible.”
For weeks after his surgery, the Magician was bound to his couch and watching his team continue on TV – unfamiliar territory for the engineer of the FC Dallas offense.
After his teammates won the Supporters’ Shield in the 2016 season finale, there was that emotional late-night trip to Diaz’s house to celebrate with their No. 10. It was a special moment for someone who was feeling down about his own absence. The team wanted to complete the final leg of their miraculous season, but fell short in their MLS Cup quest without their attacking playmaker.
Throughout the preseason, Diaz has been largely on his own rehabilitation schedule, and visibly torn awaiting his return to the field. During his slow road back, he’s waited and pushed for Monday’s return to simple warm-up drills.
But it’s this final step that might be the hardest – being so close to returning he can taste it.
“It’s probably the slowest part of recovery, the anxiety to get back on the field,” he said. “I know that it’s a step to get back on the field. I have to work hard to get back in the best shape possible. So I’m just taking it easy.”
“Normally the players who go through the long process of recovering, they get to a point where they’re frustrated because their facing a lot of stuff that the ball is not involved or they may not be allowed to put the soccer shoes on, or they might not even be in the training ground,” head coach Oscar Pareja said. “When they get through that phase and they start dressing like a normal player and being in normal contact with the ball, I can notice that happiness. We’re very happy for him.”
While there is no rush to return Diaz to the field, not wanting to risk injury bringing him back too soon, having a star player return in the middle of the season is an enviable position. Especially given the success Dallas has had even in his absence.
We’re still several weeks away from seeing No. 10 back on the field for real, in a game, but Monday was a big step in his road back.
“It’s going to take time, and for us in a very crucial time as well to get Mauro back in the summer and moments where the team may need him the most,” Pareja said. “But it’s important to recognize that the boys who have been playing so far have done a terrific job so far.”