ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Terrence Boyd has always been known for his broad smiles and infectious enthusiasm when he pulls on his nation's colors. But his latest call-up has inspired an even broader, deeper joy than usual, and with good reason.


The big striker has been away from the US national team for some two and a half years, wracked by a succession of knee injuries and surgeries that drove him to the verge of retirement after just seven appearances and two goals over the past two seasons with RB Leipzig.


“[We] talked to the club about other options – maybe they would give me a job within the club, because it just didn't go forward. We were actually talking about retiring,” Boyd told reporters just before the USMNT trained in sunny but wind-chilled conditions on a lush pitch at a toney private school in Washington, D.C.'s Northern Virginia suburbs on Sunday morning.


“My family, my girlfriend – and I've got a baby daughter now – they were asking me, 'What's going to happen? If you have to stop playing soccer, what are we going to do?' It was just crazy. Because usually there there was so many terrible thoughts in your head, you didn't know what to do. I'm just glad that I could go back on the pitch, you know?”


The 25-year-old tore his ACL in a 2.Bundesliga match on Dec. 7, 2014. That in and of itself sentenced him to what is generally a nine-month recovery process. But a range of complications cropped up after the ligament was mended, leading to three subsequent surgeries and no end of pain and frustration.


“After the first big surgery for the ACL repair, there was a Baker's cyst [a pocket of joint fluid] on my calf,” Boyd explained. “So it kept inflaming itself – no matter what I did, the knee or calf was always really swollen and it just didn't go away.”


He felt he had no choice but to begin planning for a new career off the field. But doctors tried one more procedure – Boyd has previously described the collective attitude as “[screw] it, let's have a last shot” – and a breakthrough finally arrived.


“Then within the same month, I don't know, the knee was good again,” he recalled on Sunday. “I could progress in rehab and go back out on the pitch. It was a miracle. Now I'm just happy to be fit again, the knee is healthy, so I'm just slowly building it up again."


“I played a couple of reserve-team games now, some over 90 minutes, so that's actually a good point,” he added. “it's just a matter of games, games, games, to get the experience back, just feel comfortable on the pitch again. Just little things to work on.”


He's still yet to play for Leipzig's senior squad – which won promotion to the top flight during his injury nightmares – since his initial injury. So he was stunned when US coach Jurgen Klinsmann notified him that the technical staff would be scouting him while he regained his form and fitness with the reserves.


“Kind of weird, because why would you go watch a reserve team game? But it was actually very nice for me,” said Boyd. “It was a very kind, kind act.”


He admits that he grew accustomed to US call-ups earlier in his career. That's no longer the case.


“You get more humble,” he said. “There were times when [I felt], 'Yeah, it's nice, it's cool' – it wasn't that spectacular any more. And now it's just nice to be appreciated by the club, and with the national team. It's nice, just the little things right now.”


With scant top-level action under his belt, he appears to be a long shot to earn minutes in Tuesday's friendly vs. New Zealand at RFK Stadium. But that quick grin breaks out again when the topic comes up.


“I'm enjoying the moment, just happy to be back with the guys. Let's see what happens,” he said. “It's a fun team. There's so many funny characters in here, so it's a nice family, you know?”