WASHINGTON — It’s been a long, frustrating and injury-plagued season for D.C. United defender Jed Zayner in 2011.
A hamstring injury picked up in the season opener against the Columbus Crew has dogged him since mid-March, limiting him to only two league appearances and 131 minutes.
It’s also nullified any sort of contribution the 26-year-old hoped to have in his first full season with United.
“It’s been a long two-and-a-half-months … [especially] seeing the boys go up and down,” Zayner said.
His first attempted comeback from the initial injury came on April 29 in Houston, but Zayner was forced to exit in the 61st minute after re-aggravating the injury.
After another month of rehab and rest, Zayner played 45 minutes in last week’s reserves game against the New England Revolution. He said he felt ready for 90 minutes if called upon at Real Salt Lake this Saturday.
But whether he plays or not is out of his hands.
“I think he’s champing at the bit to get back out there,” head coach Ben Olsen said. “We have to evaluate who we have, who’s healthy and we’ll go from there at the weekend. It’s good to have him back.”
Zayner praised the DC staff for helping him stay focused and positive throughout the long recovery process.
“They’ve been great,” he said. “They’re so encouraging, motivating, and no matter how down you are about getting injured, they make sure to keep you up every single day.”
The timing of Zayner’s recovery couldn’t be better for DC. Due to injuries suffered recently by Dejan Jakovic and Marc Burch, the team has been forced to use three rookies — Perry Kitchen, Ethan White and Chris Korb — at the back in the last two games.
While the results have been mixed, a bad 4-2 loss to San Jose last Saturday highlighted how much of a boost Zayner can provide in the back.
“I hope to bring a little bit more of a veteran experience to the table,” he said. “We’ve got young [guys]. They’re doing well, they’re doing really well, let’s not take that away from them.
“But,” Zayner added, “they still have a bunch to learn.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark