A year ago, Ramon Ramirez was an iron man for Chivas USA. In his first Major League Soccer season, Ramirez played in 31 of 32 games with a one-match suspension the reason for his only missed game.
This season, however, Ramirez will not match those statistics. The veteran midfielder re-aggravated on old injury that could keep him off the playing field well into the season -- if he can return at all.
Ramirez hurt his knee in preseason and recently had a setback. He has been receiving rehabilitation treatments but progress is slow.
"The reality is that I have not improved enough to play," Ramirez said. "It was getting difficult at times and I would feel it a little more than usual. We need to wait a bit more time."
Chivas USA coach Bob Bradley stressed the importance of patience.
"It's necessary to be cautious as he comes back this time because the knee continues to cause some problems for him," Bradley said.
Ramirez, 36, was hampered with injuries over the three-plus years prior to joining Chivas USA. In his last seven Mexican seasons, Ramirez hit the 1,000-minute mark just twice. In his last season with Chivas, Ramirez played 272 minutes. In 2005, however, Ramirez seemed to have erased doubts over his durability when he logged 2,573 minutes, the most minutes than he had played in a full year since 1999.
Now, he hopes doctors will help him step onto the field in the near future. Ramirez said a return in four or five weeks could happen if he is able to recover from an old injury.
"We're waiting for a ligament that has already been operated on to heal. The doctors are trying to come up with a plan that is more cautious and patient in order to try and avoid surgery," Ramirez said.
A healthy return is his main priority.
"We are going to work with that in mind," Ramirez said. "It's difficult to rehab a ligament that has already been operated on. Hopefully I can come back from this. I'd like to play some games and finish out this season."
Still, the prospect exists that the injury might be too much for Ramirez to overcome.
"There is a possibility that I won't be able to come back from this in which case I'll require surgery and I will be out for the season," Ramirez said. "Retirement would be a possibility. Right now we're patient, optimistic and hopeful that I will be able to recover from this."
No matter what happens, Ramirez said he will be around as much as possible.
"It's been difficult going through this but at the same time I'm very thankful to God and with the career that He has given me," Ramirez said. "It's not the first or last time I've faced a challenge. I will remain with the team, whether I play or not, whether I'm well enough to play or not."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the appoval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.