Chivas USA phenom Iraheta makes return to practice field

CARSON, Calif. – Nearly seven months after an ACL tear in his left knee put his rookie season on hold, Chivas USA midfielder Marvin Iraheta made his return to practice on Monday, running laps around the training ground while the club practiced.

The reception was a warm one for the 20-year-old, who received applause from his teammates – even Peter Vagenas, who drove Iraheta to practice during preseason – as he jogged past. After a long rehabilitation, Iraheta was all smiles after returning to the group.

“I feel very good and I’m just excited to be back,” a beaming Iraheta told MLSsoccer.com after his first training session. “I’ve been doing therapy at CATZ [a facility run by Chivas strength and conditioning coach Jim Liston]. For me, it’s just amazing to be back with the team. It’s just amazing.”

Iraheta’s injury occurred during a preseason scrimmage with the Ventura County Fusion on Jan. 27, just days after the midfielder signed with the club. In his first-team debut, the 2009-10 US Developmental Academy Player of the Year showed a considerable presence in midfield before suffering the injury midway through the first half.

But while many young players would have sulked, the eternally upbeat Iraheta patiently went about his rehabilitation in hopes of making an MLS debut sometime during the 2012 season. Finally back on the field, Iraheta has already begun to think about a potential return to action.

“I’m taking it day by day right now and I hope to be back by maybe September or maybe August,” he said. “I’m just happy to be back.”

While Iraheta is understandably cautious after a long rehabilitation, Liston commended the youngster for his maturity and poise through the long process, even going so far to say that Iraheta “is ahead of most ... if not ahead of everyone” that has come through CATZ with the same injury.

“Marvin is the kind of kid that when it happened, he was disappointed, but from that point on, he figures out how he’s going to get back on the field,” Liston told MLSsoccer.com. “Like any person, he’s going to feel a bit down, but he’s special that regard and thought, ‘What do I need to do to get back as quickly as I can?’ That’s his personality, and that’s going to pay off when he becomes a great pro.”

Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at adam.m.serrano@gmail.com.