After long and "frustrating" road back to health, Real Salt Lake's Robbie Findley close to return

SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley is not a particularly happy man right now – but he's getting happier.

The process won't be complete, however, until he can get back on the field.

That hasn't happened since the MLS Cup final on Dec. 1 of last year, when Findley was subbed out in the 112th minute. Less than two weeks later, he underwent surgery to repair a torn right patella tendon that resulted from general wear and tear on the knee.

It's been almost five months since the surgery. Findley certainly remembers exactly when it happened.

“December 12 was the surgery,” he told reporters. “Yeah, it's definitely frustrating. I hate watching from the sidelines.”

At one point, the speedy forward – who had two goals and an assist in the 2013 playoffs – was projected to return in April. But he started training with the team last week, which is great news for RSL coach Jeff Cassar, the longtime assistant who hasn't been able to put Findley in the starting lineup – or even in the 18 – since he became the head coach this season.

“He's not quite up to getting banged on yet and getting that contact,” Cassar told reporters. “That was a pretty severe injury. Part of it is building that confidence back as much as it is the muscles. You've got to work with him physically, mentally and bring it all together.”

Findley is playing only offense during training. He said there's no more pain in his knee, but “deceleration, changing direction and all that stuff is where I need to get used to doing it again,” he said. “And that's what I'm doing. It's getting better each week. I'm headed in the right direction.”

Though he's making progress, there is no timetable for his return to active duty.

“He's [going] at his own pace, which is great,” Cassar said. “And I also think he needs to get his strength up. That's the last little piece. It's coming. And that last little bit is the hardest bit to get.”

Findley, who spent time in a brace after the surgery, has been working non-stop to get ready to get back on the field. And it hasn't been easy.

“But it is what it is,” he said. “I just want to make sure I don't come back to quick and be out even longer.”

There's no doubt that RSL could use a healthy Findley in the lineup.

A rash of injuries had the team down to just two healthy forwards – Alvaro Saborio and Olmes Garcia – for several games. Joao Plata returned to the starting lineup in Saturday’s 2-2 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps after straining a hamstring, but Cassar would like to see Findley push for playing time.

“I think once we get a good, healthy competition at the forward position, it's only going to make all of them better,” he said.

Findley said he has confidence in his doctors and the RSL training staff, but he refuses to put any kind of timeline on his recovery.

“That's the thing,” he said. “Can't put a date on it, you know what I mean? I wish I could, but it's just how my body's feeling and how it reacts to certain training sessions and stuff like that.

“It's just making sure I get out here and get through practice each day and can come out the next day and do it again.”