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Klein's return for Wizards on goal

When Kansas City Wizards midfielder Chris Klein's 2004 season was struck down by a left anterior cruciate ligament tear while charging at goal last Aug. 14 against the San Jose Earthquakes, he immediately asked how soon he could return.

Then his teammates completed a near-dream season winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the Western Conference championship, and a place in MLS Cup 2004.

During the time when he should have been playing a key role in his team's successes, he was enduring a meticulous and intense rehabilitation after successful surgery was performed.

Then when it was confirmed that the Wizards would be playing in the quarterfinal stage of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup, Klein had only one question: When?

The answer is now, and Klein is ready.

"When I found out we were going to play in this, I found out the date, and I looked at this as a possibility of a time where I wanted to be healthy," Klein said. "Now that I'm here, I look forward to playing in the game."

Neither Klein nor Wizards boss Bob Gansler expressed more than the normal concern regarding his second ACL injury. Both were confident he would rebound owing to his experience of rehabbing his right ACL in 2001 and his character.

"He's been ready to go since a day after he got hurt," said Gansler. "He's such a positive and conscientious guy that he is extremely fit, not as he was before he got hurt, but he's working on that as we know he will."

Even though the Wizards did well without the 29-year-old winger, it was clear that something was missing from the overall scheme when Klein's talent that had produced four goals and eight assists in 19 games was stripped from the lineup. Klein hopes he can help round out the attack and up the Wizards' goal production.

"I add another option offensively. [In MLS Cup 2004,] I think D.C. [United] did a very good job of focusing on [forwards] Davy [Arnaud] and Josh [Wolff]," Klein said. "I bring that added threat. Hopefully I can add something to the team."

The St. Louis native's modest estimation of his worth only emphasizes Gansler's opinion of his value.

"It's good to have Kleiny back because when he went down he was leading MLS in assists, not just off crosses, which everybody expects, but by playmaking," said Gansler, who has been focusing on increasing his side's potency. "He's just a good guy to have in the lineup for the intangibles as well -- his leadership, his confidence, busting other guys up, raising them up."

To Klein and his teammates, Wednesday's match at Arrowhead against Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup quarterfinals is a chance to get back to business on the way to another ambitious season.

"We look at this two ways. We really want to do well in this tournament, that's our first priority. Any tournament we are entered into, we want to win, and it starts Wednesday night," Klein said. "Second, there's no better preparation for the regular season than playing meaningful games, and we have an opportunity to do that with these first two with Saprissa."

Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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