After completing his six-game suspension, Chicago Fire forward Andy Herron is ready to return to action and fight for a place in Dave Sarachan's starting lineup.Herron was suspended after last November's Eastern Conference Championship, where his team lost 1-0 to the New England Revolution, after unacceptable physical contact with referee Terry Vaughn and assistant referee George Gansner that led to his being sent off in stoppage time of the second half of the match at Gillette Stadium. Herron said he has learned his lesson and is just waiting for Sarachan to call on him to play for the first time in 2006. "The truth is that it has been difficult," said Herron in Spanish. "The suspension has brought many consequences. I have not been able to help my team, and I think it has a lot to do with me being out of the (Costa Rican) national team for the World Cup."
For any professional, being off the field for nearly half a year can bring about real frustration. But Herron said the time for frustration is past, and now he's only thinking of the future, that one can't recover time lost."You want to be on the field helping your teammates. You know that when there is no continuity, the chances to play are reduced. Now I am out of 'jail,' so to speak -- I learned the lesson and I cannot make those mistakes again." Herron was not alone during his period of struggle. His teammates played a key role in keeping him in an upbeat mood. "There were people like Gonzalo [Segares], Thiago, Iván [Guerrero], Diego [Gutiérrez] and many others that kept touch with how I was doing. They encouraged me to work hard so I could be in shape when the chance to play came again. I am grateful for them." The Chicago Fire coaching staff and front office also showed solidarity with Herron. "[Assistant coach] Denis [Hamlett] called me when I was in Costa Rica. He said he supported me and I really felt his unconditional support. The same with [club president] John Guppy who said I can count on him." And Coach Sarachan's support was especially felt past week. "After the reserves game, Dave held my shoulders and said, 'You are free, now it's time to go for it,'" said Herron. The striker said he has no guarantee to be including for the 18-man gameday roster for Saturday's match against Houston Dynamo. Herron said he is in good shape, but acknowledges he needs to get some minutes in the field in order to be in full condition. "I hope I get the chance and recover my game level again, which is what I need because I am in good physical shape," he said. Herron is pleased with the team's 1-1-4 mark thus far this season. "The results we have gotten are not bad at all," said Herron. "It was a big challenge to start the season playing nine away games. The team has won just one game, but the guys have been good." Yet when he speaks of Costa Rica's appearance in the World Cup, Herron's voice changes and his sadness in not making Costa Rica's final roster for Germany 2006 becomes clear. "I did not get call for the World Cup, and as a Costa Rican there are things that I don't like, but I am not going to change anything. I respect the decisions of the coach," said Herron. "I hope the guys there enjoy it. To play the first game against the host country is a big party. I hope they enjoy that and they aren't afraid." Along with the suspension, Herron blames the series of injuries he suffered in the last year for his exclusion from the Costa Rica selection. "Last season I got injured many times. I could not play with continuity and could not start games. When you get into the field when the game is in its 60th or 70th minute, sometimes that's not sufficient to prove you are in good level." Raquel Ortiz is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.