You know a knee injury is bad when the knee is just not there anymore. That’s exactly what the experience was for Philadelphia Union forward Chris Agorsor, a player the team picked up in a weighted lottery on Monday.
“When it did happen I tried to get up and I looked at my knee and it looked deflated because the knee cap wasn’t there,” Agorsor told MLSsoccer.com before Monday's lottery. “It was very painful and it was tough to look at for a lot of my teammates. The longer I stayed on the field the more the pain started to set in.”
The incident occurred while Agorsor was playing for the University of Virginia in his freshman season of 2008. Against Central Connecticut State, two defenders converged on him from two different directions and whacked his left knee in much the same fashion: one from behind and the other from the side.
The result was Agorsor’s knee cap doing a complete 180 degrees. Forget the penalty kick and yellow card. His knee cap was now behind his leg, taking out his ACL and PCL and damaging his MCL in the process. Doctors were concerned about whether the artery that runs through the leg could remain unscathed.
“I was told I would be lucky that I’d be able to keep the leg because of complication of the dislocation,” he said. “They talked about amputation. As you can imagine it’s the worst thing you want to hear as a football player. … I couldn’t imagine not being able to play again, let alone not having two legs.”
UVA head coach George Gelnovatch described the incident as a "devastaing injury."
“Freshman year he scored some great goals for us,” Gelnovatch said. “He was on track to score more than 10 goals in his freshman year."
Luckily for Agorsor, doctors successfully reset his knee parts and the artery was intact. After one month of rehab, and with no guarantees of coming back to play, he went in for surgery to repair his ligaments.
Two months after that, he was walking without crutches. Although he missed out on the Under-20 World Cup with the US, his professional dreams were still alive.
Agorsor recovered in time for the 2009 college season, but then suffered a severe ankle sprain in October 2009 that took him out of commission. The Cavaliers went on to win the NCAA title without him. Despite having played only a small part in the run, Agorsor decided he had reached the pinnacle and it was time for a move from the college game.
His road to the pros started with a month at Manchester United, followed by two months with CD Nacional in Portugal. His 2010 wrapped up with a winter break stint in Philadelphia, where he rejoined former ODP coach Rob Vartughian, an assistant coach for the Union.
Although work permits proved the obstacle in England and finances were an issue in Portugal, the process was more streamlined in MLS.
“I saw the strides MLS had made and it looked really enticing, and I’m one of those guys that when you see something good, you act on it,” Agorsor said. “It’s something I wanted to be a part of and I jumped at the opportunity and [the contract] happened really quickly.”
So what kind of player can Union fans expect? Gelnovatch, who described Agorsor as arguably the top recruit in the nation in 2008, expects him to be dynamic, quick, elusive and above all determined and competitive. He says Agorsor's first steps between five and 10 yards is what separates him from the rest of the field, literally and figuratively.
Although he’s from the south side of Baltimore – from Severn, Md., to be exact – Agorsor says he has never heard from D.C. United throughout the years, nor was he interested in playing for them. He says the rivalry between his youth soccer club, the Baltimore Bays, and D.C. United’s academy was a heated one in the youth ranks.
According to Agorsor, Baltimore “is a lot more similar to Philly than to DC … and Philadelphia was the closest I could be to playing in Baltimore.”
He got his wish on Monday.
He grew up playing with Union draftee Zac MacMath and he goes way back with Philadelphia right back Sheanon Williams. The youth movement in Philly was a major attraction for Agorsor. It’s where he was hoping to complete his comeback before Monday's lottery ever took place.
“Any player who takes their profession seriously knows that if you’ve done something before, you can do it again,” Agorsor said. “If I get into preseason I know I can gel with my teammates and I will contribute.”