SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Despite being almost three full years removed from his last competitive match, new San Jose Earthquakes forward Marcus Tracy remains steadfast in the certainty that he can regain the form he enjoyed in helping Wake Forest take home the 2007 NCAA title and claiming the 2008 Hermann Trophy as college soccer’s best player.
“Without a doubt,” Tracy said Monday after his first San Jose training session. “If I didn’t feel like I’d be able to get back to that level again, I don’t think I would have put myself through what I went through.
“I’m coming back with the intent not just to be able to say, ‘I played soccer again,’ but to compete at the highest level. How long is that going to take? I don’t know. ... But there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll get to that level, sooner rather than later.”
Listening to the earnestness of the 25-year-old, it’s easy to buy into his belief.
Tracy has been given plenty of opportunities to quit since leaving the college ranks to join Danish Superliga side Aalborg BK. Knee problems kept him from playing past November 2009 and eventually required surgeries to repair both patellar tendons in 2010. When that didn’t work, he underwent a microfracture procedure on his right knee last November.
Instead of looking into coaching or putting that economics major to use, Tracy rededicated himself to the notion that the guy who had 13 goals and 10 assists in 24 matches as a senior, the one who terrorized defenses on his way to first-team All-American honors, could still re-emerge in the professional ranks.
“At this point, I feel better than I’ve felt, physically, since my sophomore year at Wake Forest, when I started to have some tendinitis issues,” Tracy said. “The rehab process was long, and definitely difficult, but I got through it and I’m just happy to be out here with this opportunity to get my career back on track.”
Tracy began working out this summer with the Philadelphia Union, and said his knees were “100 percent” even after five weeks of training with the Union. He took a couple weeks off while negotiations on a deal with MLS were underway, to avoid a contract-wrecking injury, but said he should be able to attain match fitness in a few weeks – which could mean a Quakes debut before the regular season ends on Oct. 27.
“Obviously, the team is in a very good spot right now, and that’s going to be the No. 1 focus,” Tracy said. “If I can come in and help the team in any way, awesome. But my job is come in, stay healthy and stay on the field.”
After three long years, that’d be a good first step.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.