Michael Lahoud ecstatic of return to Philadelphia Union: "I never thought 2 or 3 minutes could mean that much"

CHESTER, Pa. – When Philadelphia Union midfielder Michael Lahoud came into the game for the final minutes of Saturday’s 2-0 win over D.C. United, everything seemed bigger.

The field. The stadium. The crowd. All of it.

“You kind of take it for granted what you do and how awesome of an atmosphere PPL Park is,” Lahoud told MLSsoccer.com. “The first thing I thought was: OK, this is awesome.”

Lahoud’s brief appearance during Philly’s win may have only a footnote in the box score – but it was certainly a big deal for a player who had been working hard to recover from sports hernia surgery.

Before Saturday, the last time Lahoud played in a league match was in April, making it a stretch of 16 consecutive games in which the midfielder was sidelined with an injury he earlier called a “random, out-of-the-blue thing.” (He also came on as a sub in the Union’s 2-0 loss to Stoke City in an international friendly on July 30.)

“It was just a long wait,” Lahoud said. “But it was worth the wait. It made me appreciate it more being back on the field. I never thought two or three minutes could mean that much.”

The reason why it meant so much was because of how difficult the rehab and recovery process was for him. There were times where Lahoud thought he’d be able to return to training sooner, but he simply couldn’t get his body to do what he wanted.

“It was more of a mental battle than anything,” he said. “It’s just tough being patient with your body  I had to learn that it’s OK to rest and it’s OK to listen to your body … I think it’s definitely made me a better player, having a lot of time to observe and also learn more about myself.”

Lahoud’s return comes at a good time for the Union, who are right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race with 10 games left.

Before getting hurt, Lahoud was a key member of the team, playing in six of Philly’s first seven games with two starts. Often brought on to help secure wins, Lahoud could have perhaps been a factor in preventing the two consecutive 97th-minute game-tying goals Philly allowed while up a man against FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake earlier in the season.

How will he fit in now as the Union make their big push for the playoffs?

“At this point, I think it’s just whatever opportunity I get,” Lahoud said. “Obviously if [Union manager John Hackworth] puts me on as a holding midfielder or an outside back, versatility is a very strong suit of my game. I’m very confident I can get the job done. And if I get a chance to move forward, I’m taking it.

“We’re closing out the season now and I definitely missed a large part of it. But I still think I have a lot to contribute.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.