'Caps' Harris anxiously awaits return from third surgery

Atiba Harris

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VANCOUVER, B.C. – When the Vancouver Whitecaps news release came out on May 31, it almost looked like a glitch.

Atiba Harris, the release said, had once again successful surgery on the meniscus in his right knee – for the third time. After initially undergoing surgery in April 2011 to repair the meniscus, then getting it removed in August, May’s surgery this year was a clean up job to remove some loose cartilage.

The big Kittitian attacker is hoping the third time’s a charm after remarkably playing only nine games in his two-year spell with the Whitecaps.

Harris finds the back of the net

Harris had three weeks of full training with the team and has made consecutive appearances on the bench as an unused substitute – naturally, he was aching to get on the pitch in the dying minutes as his team trailed 2-1 to Real Salt Lake on Friday but didn’t get the nod.

“Any time I’m in the 18, I’m ready to play,” Harris told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “Last game I was a little bit disappointed not to get in, especially. But I’m always available whenever the coach calls me.”

Such has been his influence in the matches he has played, it feels as if he’s played much more than that – Harris made an explosive start to life with the team in 2011, scoring two goals and adding three assists in his first five games.

“He’s just going to need to take time to make sure he gets back to full fitness and health,” head coach Martin Rennie said. “He looks good – we’ve missed him a lot. A lot of times people don’t realize how many injuries we have had, but we have missed a lot of senior players and Atiba’s one of them. He’ll be a good guy to have back.”

An eventual on-field comeback will have to wait though, as the club has a bye week – an aggravating circumstance for the player, who just wants to return to competition.

“I wasn’t really happy about having this time off after being out for so long – I just want to play,” Harris said. “I still need to play a bit of catch up to get my fitness up in any way I can, but during this time we don’t have games. We have a reserve game on the weekend so hopefully I’ll get some minutes there and get sharp.”

Harris says his reaction to the surgery is going well this time around, and credits the club’s medical team for opting for a more conservative approach to his comeback this time around.

“From day one right after surgery, I just felt I had a different feeling about this,” Harris said. “I’m not going to say I’m all clear yet, but I feel much better, much more confident this time around. I feel like I’m getting back on track and heading in the right direction.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.