CHICAGO - He had just taken a seat in the Chicago Fire locker room after playing 90 minutes in a 3-1 victory against Real Salt Lake. The left leg was iced, the right leg was grass-stained and dirt dotted the right side of his face and neck.
The diminutive warrior was set to board a plane in 12 hours to join the U.S. national team's training camp in Portland, Ore., and one by one the Chicago Fire players shook his hand and wished him luck.
Chris Armas will attempt to win a spot in the center of the U.S. national team's midfield for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup, a spot he feels he never lost.
"I can't say I worked myself out of the national team, I've been out of there with an injury," said the 33-year-old veteran, who has not appeared for the U.S. in 2005.
"I'm not surprised [at the call-up]. It's not something that you are surprised with. I believed I'd get my chance back in there. You get a couple of injuries and they start to doubt where you are, but I'm ready to get a look over there. I feel good," said Armas, who has been capped 58 times with the national team.
"Bruce has a lot of players to choose from and a lot of guys are doing well. I view it as a great opportunity to myself to get back in and show them I can still play at that level."
Armas thinks that there are a handful of players that can occupy his spot on the field.
"The reality is, when you go to camp with 30-40 players in the pool and you get to middle of the midfield defensively, you can put a few guys in that spot that can help the team win. It comes down to which specific qualities Bruce is looking for - myself, Pablo [Mastroeni], [Kerry] Zavagnin, whoever else is in the mix, you have some offensive minded guys like Claudio [Reyna] and [Clint] Dempsey - it depends what Bruce is looking for."
"Everyone is there for a reason; everyone there has something to bring to the table," added Armas.
Armas, showing why he is among the most loyal players in the Fire's eight year history, admitted to drawbacks of being called up.
"The worst part about it is leaving home, family and the [Chicago Fire] here. It's never easy to leave the club team," said the Fire captain.
"I'll feel better and relaxed on the plane tomorrow when I'm out of here. As I am saying goodbye to the team today I'm feeling like I'm leaving them stranded a little bit, especially for Wednesday with a huge game [against D.C. United]. I wish I could have played that game and then went to Portland, but Bruce wanted everyone in," said Armas.
While he is having those ambivalent feelings about leaving, there's also a hope for Armas that he'll miss five Fire games. Conflicted? For sure.
"You pack for one month really, because you hope you are going to be playing in the final on July 24 in New York," said Armas with a smile.
Ivaldo Basso is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.