TUCSON, Arizona – Fanendo Adi laughed and joked with his Portland Timbers teammates as he kicked the ball around ahead of a training session at the Kino Sports Complex Tuesday morning.
After spending thefinal three months of the 2017 MLS season sidelined with a lingering hamstring injury, Adi has been savoring every momentof this preseason.
“I feel excited to be back again,” Adi said.“Of course, to be able to train, kick the ball, run and do everything with the group is absolutely amazing for me.”
Adi injured his hamstring while completing an innocuous back heel pass during a game against the LA Galaxy last August. The club initially said the injury was not severe, but it turned out to be much worse than expected.
Over a three-month period from August to October 2017, Adi’s timeline to return to the field kept getting pushed further and further back. Finally, at the end of October, the Timbers sent Adi to a specialist in Los Angeles in order to determine the right rehabilitation program for the 27-year-old Nigerian striker.
During the rehabilitation process, Adi said he tried to return to the field earlier than he should have and that led to him suffering setbacks that ultimately caused him to miss the final 10 games of the 2017 regular season and Portland’s two playoff matches.
“There were setbacks and there was a lack of communication between the staff,” Adi said. “Probably, I was trying to come back too early and basically we rushed the recovery. If the body is not yet ready and the legs are not ready and you try to do something, you have a little breakdown again. It was just one of those things. We were in the moment and we were trying to get me back on the pitch and maybe I needed one of two more weeks.”
The Timbers dealt with an unusual number of injuries in 2017 and, at times, struggled to get injured players, such as Adi, back on the field in a timely fashion. Those issues prompted the Timbers to take a hard look at their sports science and fitness program this offseason and the club ultimatelymade the decision to hire a new head trainer and a full-time physical therapist.
Despite suffering setbacks during his recovery, Adi said he was finally making progress at the end of last season and would have been cleared to play if the Timbers had qualified for the MLS Cup.
But after Portland was eliminated from playoffs in the Western Conference semifinals last November, Aditurned his focus toward 2018. He spent the offseasontakingthe time he needed to fully heal so that he could return to thepitch at full strength at the start of the 2018 preseason.
“I was just getting myself ready, knowing if we eventually go through (to MLS Cup), I’ll be there,” Adi said. “But immediately when we were out of the season, it was just a matter of taking it slow and recovering well.”
While hesaid the rehabiliation process wasfrustrating at times,Adi also saidit is something that he can learn from moving forward.
“It’s just one of those things that you learn from, how to take care of your body and the best way to exercise, the best way to do the things you have to do before going out on the pitch to get your body going,” Adi said. “I’m just excited to be out (on the pitch) again.”
Adi has been one of the most dangerous strikers in MLS over the last few years. He netted 16 goals in both 2015 and 2016 and had scored 10 goals in 22 starts before suffering the hamstring injury last year.
And that he is fully healthy, he hopes he can pick up where he left off.
“I’m doing very well,” Adi said. “Of course, we’re all looking for fitness. Of course, having missed a lot of games, I have to work harder to catch up with the guys that played a lot of games (at the end of last year). But to begin preseason with the group is absolutely amazing and I’ll be in shape before you know it.”
2018 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)
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