Although he has returned to training this week, Kansas City Wizards goalkeeper Tony Meola will again likely miss out on Friday as his team takes its first place standing to Colorado when the top two teams in the Western Conference do battle.
"I think I can [go Friday]. [But] I don't think I should give it a shot. I think I'd rather just wait another week," Meola said.
After suffering from Achilles' tendonitis all season, the veteran goalkeeper decided it was time to get healthy before Kansas City's August 21 match in New England. Now he wants to make sure he can go the distance for his team.
"I still look at it as I'm one of the guys that the Wizards depend on, and I won't do us any good if I'm sitting on the bench," the New Jersey native said. "But I am also trying to look into the future and know that we're making the final push here, so it's important to be ready for that final run."
Meola has gotten back into the groove this week in training; nevertheless, missing four league matches and one U.S. Open Cup match has been enlightening as he has seen the Wizards' performances fluctuate while his body heals.
"If we don't battle in games, we can't win. This time of year, more often than not, you're going to win games by battling. There were a couple of games we didn't. That San Jose game at home on Saturday [August 14, a 2-0 San Jose win], we looked like we were out for a stroll in the park, and we paid the price," he said. "We came back playing the same team a week later [August 24, a 1-0 K.C. win in the Open Cup semifinal] and we battled every roll of the ball. That's what we need."
Meola's point is not a new one. Many Wizards players have paid lip service to work rate and conviction, something the 35-year-old netminder has tired of.
[We've] gotta sort out things, what's rhetoric and what's worth our time. You can talk about battling, and you can talk about possession, but more important is to do 'em," Meola said.
Despite his team's inconsistency, Meola is still very positive about, and very awed by, his teammates.
"We're capable of doing them. The way we've come through all these injuries so far this season right from the start is incredible," he said.
Come the next Wizards home match on September 18 against San Jose, Meola should be ready to put his stamp on the team through his dependable example.
"Every day I go to work I realize it affects 22 people. And I think when people get in trouble is when they forget that, and that's the way I look at it," he said. "I always have. You're only as strong as your weakest link."
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Soccer or its clubs.