CARSON, Calif. — Jimmy Conrad spends a great deal of his time these days just waiting.
Clad in tan slacks, a Chivas USA warm-up jersey and with large black sunglasses and a hat partly covering his face, Conrad watched the Rojiblancos train on Wednesday morning from a bench far from where Chivas USA were practicing. It’s a spot that, for him, has become all too common.
Time on the field has become sparse for Conrad since a punch from Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens in a match on March 26 left him with a mild concussion. The timeline on his return is cloudy, and his emotions are decidedly mixed between impatience and concern.
Conrad also admits that thoughts of the high-profile injuries to his former rivals Taylor Twellman and Alecko Eskandarian are tough to ignore, especially as he deals with his own recovery.
“I’m worried because I’m friends with guys who have had these injuries and can’t play anymore, like Twellman, Eskandarian and [Bryan] Namoff,” said Conrad. “It’s discomforting, but I’m just trying to make good decisions based on that.”
Conrad’s return to action is subject to new MLS rules requiring players to go through an entire week without symptoms and be inspected by a neurologist before they can return to action. It's a new protocol put into place this season as a manner of protection for players.
The LA native hasn't yet been cleared to return under the new guidelines and admits that he still shows symptoms of the concussion, most recently on what should have been an otherwise relaxing Saturday afternoon with his family.
“I was progressing pretty nicely, exercising and getting into a good spot, and even trained with the reserves on Saturday,” he said. “But that afternoon, I went shopping with my family and I had a bad reaction to my surroundings. I let everyone know that we’re going to get some more scans, and talk to the right people so that I have a good idea of what I’m doing and the right moves going forward.”
In the meantime, Conrad has taken up the role of mentor, providing guidance for a Chivas USA defense that has quickly matured this spring into one of the top defenses in the league.
One player who has received a great deal of assistance from Conrad has been center back Heath Pearce, who has quickly developed into a new leader for the Rojiblancos back line despite no previous experience in central defense.
It’s through these brief moments of tutelage that Conrad can maintain his connection to Chivas USA, the team that he hopes one day soon to lead onto the field once again.
“[I’m helping] with the little things, whether it’s tendencies for a match up or angles. It’s not just [Pearce], it’s everyone,” Conrad said. "Even if I’m a defender, it doesn’t mean that I can’t offer good tips for forwards. I just try to be an asset to the team and not be someone that is just feeling sorry for themselves.”