KANSAS CITY, Mo. - In sheer statistics, it would appear that Kansas City Wizards midfielder Chris Klein is winning his fight to return from a left ACL tear suffered last August. The injury literally tore Klein away from his team's charge to the 2004 U.S. Open Cup title and a spot in MLS Cup 2004 while he recovered from surgery.
So far this season, the doggedly determined Klein leads Kansas City in every scoring category with five goals and six assists. However, there are many more battles the two-time MLS All-Star has targeted for his team and himself to win.
"For me, I'm just trying to get better every single game. I'm never where I want to be," said Klein.
Monday's 2-1 setback to the Colorado Rapids in Denver exhibits how far Klein has come, yet how far he and his team have to go, as he scored the Wizards only marker in the eighth minute and nearly a second in the 33rd minute. However, Klein was not happy with his play as he said he under-performed while Kansas City fell behind in the match despite being man up. The result left the Wizards in a tie with D.C. United for third place in the Eastern Conference as the teams meet this weekend in Washington.
"I look at the game and I think I could have given us more in that 15-minute stretch where we lost the game. I try to look at myself and see what I could have done differently, and it varies from game to game," he said. "[In particular I need to do] whatever we need. There are some games where I think I could have done better defensively or been a little sharper offensively."
Kansas City coach Bob Gansler, who took over the Wizards helm in 1999, Klein's second year with the team, feels his spirited right midfielder has yet to regain his top form.
"He's not where he was last year before the injury, nor should anyone expect him to be," Gansler said. "He's a tremendous teammate and a tremendous competitor, but physically you don't have that quick of a turnaround."
As Gansler alluded to, no one should ever question Klein's resolve as he possesses two motivational strengths that have grown in him from the beginning.
"My faith motivates me, that's the first thing - to do everything I can with what I've been given. Another thing that motivates me is winning. I hate to lose, and to be honest, I hate to tie. We've got seven ties and some losses - that motivates [and gives me] the will to get better, the will to succeed, and to have a successful season," Klein said.
"No matter how you are statistically, there's no better feeling than to be part of a winning team. I think we have all the parts here to get that done," he said adamantly. "We're looking to have a real strong start to the second half of the season."
Meanwhile, the U.S. national team will play its first match in the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Thursday in Seattle against Cuba, a tournament wherein many new and relatively inexperienced players internationally are auditioning for the last half of World Cup qualifiers and perhaps a spot on the USA's roster for the World Cup in Germany in 2006.
The 29-year-old St. Louis native is currently on hold with 16 caps with the senior team, and assuming the United States qualifies, he is surely hoping to be in the mix when it comes to Germany next summer.
"[A national team call-up] is in my thoughts. I'm striving to get there. Am I going to get my chance? I don't know. Do I want my chance? Sure, but I'm not going to let that change what I know," he said. "I have to perform here for the Wizards because that's the only think I can control at this very moment. If I get my chance, I can look at it then. Right now, I'm just trying to give everything I have for Kansas City."
And although danger lies in an individual trying to do too much, Klein will continue to fight to hit his targets.
"After the season, I guess I can take a step back and look at how things were," he said. "In the present state, I think I can do more. I'm trying to push myself and urge myself to do more."
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.