With a full preseason under his belt and his injury woes behind him, Chance Myers was a favorite to begin the season as the Wizards' starting right forward.
A hamstring injury knocked Myers off course briefly before Kansas City’s home opener against D.C. United, but no one in Kansas City—especially not Myers—expects the knock to keep him from contributing for long.
“I was frustrated to begin with,” Myers told MLSsoccer.com, “but I’ve been there and done that.”
Been there and done that is right. Myers hasn’t been able to stay out of the training room for long since coming into Major League Soccer as the No. 1 overall SuperDraft pick in 2008. Niggling injuries and illnesses, including a case of mononucleosis, have kept him off see too much of the field during his first two seasons in the league.
The time away from his teammates and the field has been frustrating for Myers, but that hasn’t kept him from making progress technically and tactically and developing his game.
“He’s come a long way,” Wizards manager Peter Vermes said. “There’s no doubt. I think he struggled early on in the first couple years from a number of perspectives, but right now I think he’s at the top of his form. He has so much more to go, but he’s really come a long way.”
Despite the temporary setback, the UCLA product returned to training this week with an eye towards making his first appearance of the season against the Colorado Rapids Saturday evening at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. Vermes said the training staff is moving Myers along slowly to ensure that he isn’t rushed back too early, preventing his hamstring from healing properly. That’s just fine by Myers, who participated in a short intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday and participated in fitness drills without any noticeable effects from the injury.
“I’m taking it one day at a time, one practice at a time and one game at a time,” Myers said. “Just doing what I’m asked. The coaches have a lot of faith in me so I just want to do what I do best.”
Prior to the hamstring issues, Myers said he had been encouraged by the way his body was responding to his first full preseason and the level of fitness he was able to develop. That preseason work should come in handy as he attempts to regain full fitness and find his place on a revamped squad.
That spot looks increasingly like it will be in the attacking third, providing support to a central striker. Myers has played right back and right midfielder for Kansas City in the past, but Vermes said the 22-year-old is more useful to the team attacking from the midfield. The coach pointed to Myers’ combination of athleticism and skill as a potential key to unlocking opposing defenses through his runs behind the defense and quality service from wide positions.
“Instead of just whipping the ball into the mixer, he sees where he wants to put it,” Vermes said. “Not every guy does that. Being able to be creative from that right side, left side or wherever he’s coming from gives our team a different dynamic.”
After staying home instead of traveling to St. Louis for the Wizards exhibition match last weekend, Myers, Jack Jewsbury, Ryan Smith and Davy Arnaud have all been training with the team this week.
But midfielder Santiago Hirsig and forward Kei Kamara have both picked up knocks. Kamara watched parts of training from the sidelines on Wednesday, and Vermes said his status for this weekend was up in the air, though it doesn’t appear likely that he will play.
“I can’t tell you whether he is going to be out there or if he’s not,” Vermes said. “Right now he’s injured and we are taking it day to day.”
Rookie forward Teal Bunbury took Kamara’s place on the right with the first team during a short scrimmage. Myers occupied that position with the second team, and cut his time in the scrimmage short to stretch with the training staff.
Vermes confirmed that striker Zoltan has been placed on IR. The Hungarian forward will have surgery on Friday.
With Zoltan’s senior international roster spot available for use, Vermes said Kansas City is now roster compliant pending the completion of international paperwork for several players.
That doesn’t mean the Wizards are looking to stand pat. Vermes said the team would likely continue bringing in trialists and continuing its search for additional talent.
“The roster is an evolving thing,” Vermes said. “Just because there are 24 guys on the roster doesn’t mean were not going to be having other players coming in. It’s our job to constantly be looking at how to improve this team.”