KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Game by game, minute by minute, Peterson Joseph is playing himself out of the shadow. And the more time he gets on the pitch, the faster that can happen.
The Haitian midfielder didn’t join Sporting Kansas City until mid-April this season because he was at home dealing with his mother’s death. Since then, he’s been working to regain his match fitness – and that work is already paying off for player and club.
“I want to keep going and work hard, and maybe I can get in 90 minutes,” Joseph told MLSsoccer.com after Tuesday’s training session. "That’s what I’m looking for. I think I can say I’m at 80-85 percent.”
Joseph has started both of Sporting’s US Open Cup games, recording an assist in SKC’s 3-2 win vs. Orlando City on May 29 and going 72 minutes a week later in a 2-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids, before tweaking a groin muscle and leaving the match. He also logged 13 minutes in one league appearance.
“It’s very important to get those minutes,” said Joseph, whose footwork and passing have earned him the nickname 'Haitian Xavi.' “When they give me minutes, I go all the way and push myself. I want the 90 minutes. Maybe two more games, I’m getting there.”
Joseph’s 85 percent estimate is about right, said manager Peter Vermes.
“I don’t think he’s where he needs to be yet, fitness and strength-wise,” Vermes said. “The good thing is that he’s not dealing with anything that we’re trying to get him back from. He’s had steady training, which is good, and he recovered from that last injury pretty quickly, which was a good sign. We’ve just got to keep building him up.”
However, Vermes added, it could be more than two more games before Joseph is ready to go the distance.
“A month from now, I would hope that he’s in the 90-95 percent range,” Vermes said. “He’s on track at the moment. Barring any setbacks with an injury, he’s doing pretty well right now.”
And while Joseph works on his fitness, Vermes has enough confidence in his skills that he won’t hesitate to use him against any opponent. Additionally, the tragedy at home has also matured the midfielder, Vermes noted.
“He’s a different guy than when he left,” he said. “He seems more settled. He realizes he’s here now. He’s a part of it. Before, at times, it seems he was not so connected. He’s become one of the main guys within the group.”
That’s the only approach he can take.
“This is my life now,” Joseph said. “I just have to forget everything and move forward.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.