It took Orlando City centerback Jonathan Spector a little while to recognize something was wrong after the Lions’ 3-2 victory over the Portland Timbers.
The club had won its second match in a row after a rough start and was celebrating a comeback victory.
And Spector, for the second time this season after a match, was feeling dizzy. He suffered a blow to the head toward the end of the match, which was on April 8. The club on April 11 announced Spector was in concussion protocol for the second time this season and added the Lions’ captain was day-to-day.
“It didn’t really hit me until after the game, the symptoms,” Spector said. “Kind of similar in New York [against NYCFC] where I didn’t have any symptoms immediately. Nothing really came up until 20 minutes later or so, just before halftime.
“A little bit funny in that sense. At the same time, I’m grateful I’ve had a good medical staff to help me through this process.”
“Day-to-day” stretched in to weeks, with Spector aching to get match minutes again. Orlando City has played seven games since defeating Portland.
For Spector, the process of getting back in front of The Wall while it’s packed with Orlando City supporters has begun in earnest. As of Tuesday, he’s been cleared for full training.
“It’s been frustrating, obviously, any time you’re not involved,” Spector said. “I’m excited to be back with the group and training again.”
The concussion Spector suffered against Portland was his second of the season. He missed a match after he knocked heads with defender Maxime Chanot trying to win the ball off a corner kick during the Lions’ 2-0 loss to NYCFC on March 17.
Right back Will Johnson rides with Spector to training sessions. He said there was a time when Spector was struggling during his recovery.
“There were some rides we took up here where he just slept the whole way,” Johnson said in a May 15 interview.
“He’s one of the most emotionally intelligent people that I know. So, when he’s not talking or giving responses to things, you’re kind of like, ‘What’s going on?’ He listens to a lot of National Public Radio and so we had that on a little bit today. It wasn’t just a quiet ride.”
Johnson said he wanted to see Spector back healthy and that the process couldn’t be rushed.
“He’s getting closer, for sure,” Johnson said. “I think we’re much closer to the end than to the beginning, but a centerback needs to be able to head the ball. A big part of his game is physical, especially in the air. Ultimately, we need him healthy and at his best versus back out with another headache or two.”
Spector said it took some time until he started feeling like himself again after the Portland game. He worked with a vestibular therapist – someone who specializes with helping people suffering from dizziness and balance issues – through Orlando Health during his recovery.
“It’s a frustrating process,” he said. “It was a longer process than I’d hoped. But now, looking back, I can definitely say I’m back to myself, back to normal and feeling really good. Looking forward to being back with the team more frequently and, certainly, more in a game scenario and game situations.”
Spector still has to get up to match fitness before he plays in a game, but at least he’s training with his teammates again. He said he didn’t want to speculate as to why it took him so long to recover from this concussion compared to the others he’s suffered throughout his career.
He said he’s looking forward to being back in a full capacity. In the weeks after his concussion diagnosis, Spector trained to the side or was a limited participant in training.
“Obviously, I’ve been out for a little bit of time,” he said. “It’s about getting my fitness back and getting back into it with the team.
“It’s like that with any injury. I know that the brain is certainly more of a concern, but at the same time, an injury takes as long as it’s going to take. I can assure the fans that I want to be back as quickly as possible, too, but in the right way and at the right time.”