After years battling injuries, San Jose Earthquakes' Marcus Tracy takes "big mental step" in MLS debut

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – San Jose Earthquakes forward Marcus Tracy did not register a goal, an assist or even a shot on net Saturday against the Montreal Impact.

All of that paled in comparison, however, to what did appear by his name in the Quakes’ boxscore: 14 minutes played.

It might not have directly altered the outcome of the Quakes’ 2-2 tie with Montreal – Tracy didn’t have a hand in Sam Cronin’s game-tying goal in the 91st minute – but it was the 26-year-old’s MLS debut, and marked the end of a seemingly endless odyssey of knee problems that threatened to permanently derail his professional career.

“Just relief,” Tracy said when asked what he felt upon hearing head coach Frank Yallop call his name. “It’s been a long time, over three-and-a-half years since my last first-team game, so obviously it’s been a tough road, with the injuries and setbacks and surgeries. I’m just excited to get the opportunity to get on the field and try to help out.”

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Tracy, former All-American at Wake Forest, hadn’t made a first-team appearance since playing for Danish side Aalborg on Dec. 5, 2009. During the 1,246 days in between those matches, he underwent three separate knee surgeries and had countless ups and downs as he sought to recapture the form that won him the Hermann Trophy as college soccer’s best male player in 2008.

The Quakes won an MLS lottery to gain Tracy’s services when he left Aalborg and signed with the league in 2012.

The Connecticut native was credited with a shot in the 78th minute, just after coming on for Marvin Chávez, although the effort – a left-footed volley after a couple of headers put a San Jose corner kick up for grabs – went wide by a few feet. Even so, just seeing Tracy able to contribute at all put a smile on the faces of teammates, especially Cronin, who starred alongside him on the Demon Deacons’ 2007 NCAA championship team.

“I’m incredibly happy for him,” Cronin said. “I know he’s had a really long road and just the way he’s continued to fight is unbelievable.”

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Added Yallop: “I thought Marcus, for not playing for three years, looked pretty good. And I was very happy for him. ... He’s a nice kid; he’s worked very hard to get to this point.”

For Tracy, making his debut cleared a major psychological hurdle.

“Having had all the setbacks and surgeries, just to physically understand that I can perform at that level for 15, 20 minutes, I think it’s a big mental step for me,” Tracy said. “I hope to build from there.”

And while playing time might be in more demand when target men Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart return from suspension next weekend, Tracy should likely be in the Quakes’ 18-man game-day roster against Toronto FC on Wednesday (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online). Cronin, for one, expects to see more in the future.

“It’s just the beginning for him,” Cronin said. “If you couldn’t tell from [Saturday], he’s got a lot to offer the team. I’m excited to see how he continues to progress.”