Chivas USA’s playoff hopes may be on life support, but against D.C. United on Wednesday night (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), the Goats may have a savior on the horizon. The team’s defensive leader, Heath Pearce, could retake his place in the backline.
Sidelined with a hamstring injury that was expected would keep him out for at least a month, Pearce was included in the roster for Chivas’ final road swing of the season and has returned to training. He is labeled as probable for the match against DC.
“The rehab has been good, it’s been pretty intense,” Pearce said. “Obviously, it's a tough time of the season to get injured. I'm trying to do everything that I can, including thinking outside of the box, to get back quickly without risking future potential damage.”
Pearce’s history with hamstring injuries makes that risk a major concern for Chivas. In 2010, while playing with FC Dallas, Pearce suffered a severe right hamstring strain that limited his effectiveness down the stretch.
The injury he suffered for Chivas is a less severe Grade 1 hamstring strain, but the potential for further damage remains. Throughout his rehabilitation, Pearce remained optimistic about a quick return to the field, but head coach Robin Fraser is leery of rushing his All-Star defender back to action.
"Only if he's ready,” Fraser told MLSsoccer.com. “We're not going to put him in a situation where he may get hurt. If he looks ready, then he'll certainly be a candidate to get in the game.”
Since Pearce went down, his absence has been a glaring one, as Chivas have used two different back line combinations that have conceded three goals in each of their last two matches.
Should the US national-teamer be unavailable to play against DC, it is likely that he’ll see time against Toronto FC on Saturday.
For the fiercely competitive defender, it is extremely difficult to be on the sidelines as his team slides down the table. Even if he’s forced to sit out another match, Pearce said now’s the time for Chivas to battle hard.
“This time of the year is a character test," he offered. "We've been talking about who are we and what we are about, but these games are showing who we are. We have five games left to rewrite some of the mistakes that we've made throughout the season.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano