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Tainio inching closer to return, could play vs. Tottenham

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. –Teemu Tainio’s grueling road to recovery is almost complete.

Having spent much of the season as a spectator due to a damaged MCL in his right knee, the veteran midfielder is on the brink of making his return for the New York Red Bulls. Tainio rejoined his teammates in full training earlier this week, and he is finally completely healthy after undergoing almost four months of rehab.

“I feel pretty good,” Tainio told reporters on Friday. “It feels good to be back, it’s been a while I have to say. I’ve been doing fitness work for last two, three weeks and this week I’ve been with the team, getting used to the ball and stuff like that, so things are looking pretty good.”

Things were not always so cheery for the 32-year-old. He suffered a setback after admittedly returning too quickly to training and that led to head coach Hans Backe saying the injury could require an operation and that that procedure could be career-ending.

Tainio did not agree with that assessment.

“I don’t know where he picked up career-ending,” the former Finnish international said. “Even if I had operation, it would have been six months. I’m 32, I would have still played a year or two. I don’t agree in that case, but that was of course the last option to have surgery. We went to England to see the specialist, so I had some sort of injections in my knee and it seemed to work.”

The central midfielder, who has played in just three matches this season, said he would not be surprised if he dressed in next weekend’s league match against the Montreal Impact. But Backe said that is probably too optimistic and pointed to the club’s July 31 friendly against Tainio’s former club, Tottenham Hotspur, as a more likely game for him to make his return in.

“I would guess that [next weekend] probably, it would be nice of course, but I would guess more likely he would do 45 against Spurs,” Backe said. “I mean, if he’s in, he hasn’t been in a full session with us. He’s just been a floater in the technical training sessions, so the competitive session, we haven’t seen that yet.”

Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.