KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It was supposed to be a quick procedure, a non-descript surgery to clean up the partially torn meniscus in Ryan Smith’s left knee.
The Kansas City winger started 25 games while playing through the injury in 2010, his first season in MLS, and in November he went under the knife. Unfortunately, Smith didn’t bounce back the way he hoped and the way the doctors expected.
“To be honest, it was a minor surgery,” the London native said. “For some reason, I reacted really badly to the surgery. I’ve been really sore. It was almost unbearable before to try to practice. It’s been a long process.”
Five months later, it appears that process is finally nearing an end for Smith, who led Kansas City in assists with seven a year ago but wasn’t able to train with the team during the preseason and has only recently rejoined his teammates on the practice field in the last two weeks.
He said he began feeling like something wasn’t quite right with his knee, which was also operated on in 2004 and 2007, when he returned to London following the season. It was difficult to even walk, and by the time Smith returned to Kansas City, he was relegated to painful rehab with the medical staff while his teammates went through their preseason paces.
Even now, despite being back to working with the ball and training regularly, Smith said he is probably two to three weeks from taking part in a competitive game.
“It’s been frustrating,” he said. “I still don’t feel 100 percent, but at least I’m out on the field now practicing every day. I’m just looking forward to getting involved in that first game and helping the team.”
Manager Peter Vermes said that moment could come as soon as Sporting Kansas City’s April 23 game against the New England Revolution depending on the medical staff’s evaluations and would almost certainly be in a substitute role. Although Smith has returned to training, the club is in no rush to put him on the field before he is ready, maintaining a cautious approach to ensure the Englishman returns at full strength.
“By being smart with him, he’s now coming back every day and getting better and feeling better about his game,” Vermes said. “More importantly, he’s getting stronger and his relapses aren’t really there. You’ve got to pick your poison, if you will, and ride the thing out.”
By doing so, Sporting hope Smith can find the same dynamic form he exhibited for much of 2010, bringing another unique dimension to an attack that has already proven itself potent.
“It’s going to take me some time to get into the swing of things,” Smith said. “If you look at people that come back from injury, it takes some time. Hopefully, I can adjust quickly. I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.”