For a player who has been through just about every type of injury imaginable, it comes as no surprise that San Jose Earthquakes defender Troy Dayak is able to deal with his latest setback with a great deal of perspective.
Dayak, who tore his left anterior cruciate ligament while battling for a loose ball with FC Dallas forward Eddie Johnson in the early minutes of Saturday night's 0-0 draw at Spartan Stadium, will miss the remainder of his final season in MLS.
"It is what it is - it sucks, but I'll survive," said Dayak. "I'm just glad I planned ahead."
Dayak ends his active MLS career with an eye toward the future, as he was recently named head coach of the Stockton, Calif.-based expansion California Cougars of the Major Indoor Soccer League. A veteran of seven MLS seasons, Dayak was assured by his doctor that he could work hard to come back during the team's playoff push at the end of the regular season, but that gift of perspective came in handy yet again.
"I've given it a lot of thought. My ACL is gone totally and there's some meniscus damage," said Dayak. "When he told me there was no doubt I could come back, but that I might jeopardize being able to run around with my kids, I decided it wasn't worth it."
An original member of the San Jose Clash in 1996, Dayak played two seasons with the club before sustaining a serious neck injury in the middle of the 1997 season. He returned for limited duty in 1998 before playing two season with the San Francisco Bay Seals of the A-League. While a member of the Seals, he tore the posterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his right knee in the third game of the season, causing him to miss the remainder of the campaign.
As a player/assistant coach with the Seals in 2000, Dayak worked his way back into top playing shape and was brought back to the Earthquakes when Frank Yallop took over the coaching duties. Dayak helped the team to two championships in Yallop's three seasons, scoring a game-winning overtime goal against the Miami Fusion in 2001 to lead the club to its first-ever MLS Cup appearance.
The consummate team player, Dayak joked about just wanting to get some of the younger guys into the lineup. Second-year man Ryan Cochrane entered the Dallas game when Dayak went down and had an excellent game in helping shut down Johnson and fellow striker Carlos Ruiz.
No decision has been made as of yet with regard to putting Dayak on injured reserve, which would officially end his playing days with the Earthquakes, but he has already resigned himself to that likelihood.
"It makes it easier for me knowing I have faith in the young guys," said Dayak. "When you're with a team for so long, you take things so personally. You don't want anyone in your backyard doing your work. But if I try to come back, it closes down a position for Dom to get another person."
The fateful play began innocently enough, when Dayak appeared to have the angle on a long ball played into the right corner of the San Jose defense. But, according to Dayak, the ball took a strange bounce off the turf, forcing the challenge with Johnson to come much tighter.
"Normally I would have been able to collect that ball and clear it, but it held up because of the backspin," said Dayak. "I tried to put my foot across to poke the ball away and my heel got stuck in the grass. Then his leg came down on my knee."
Dayak knew immediately that the injury was serious.
"Only twice in my career have I had to be taken off the field," said Dayak. "The other time was when I hurt my right knee, so I knew right away."
With a coaching career in front of him and a long, illustrious playing career behind him, Dayak looks at this setback as a turning point in his life.
"It's been a long career for me - it's an end of an era for me," said Dayak. "I feel like it's a chapter closing on my life. I want to be able to concentrate on the next chapter in good health."
Danny Kadah is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.