OBETZ, Ohio — December 12, 2011, is a significant date to for Ben Speas, not only because he scored to give North Carolina a victory over UNC Charlotte in the College Cup final, but it was also his last competitive match.
“It would be great to get some touches in a real game,” the Crew’s Homegrown rookie told MLSsoccer.com this week.
The 21-year-old from Stow in northeastern Ohio may get his wish Sunday when the Columbus Crew host New England in Reserve League action. Speas has not played since undergoing a sports hernia-related surgery in the preseason, shortly after signing with the Crew in January.
“Before preseason I was training," Speas said. “I took a shot with my left foot and I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen. I didn’t really think anything of it. I tried to play through it then I stopped. I took a couple of weeks off before preseason.”
He resumed training but the discomfort got worse. The rectus abdominis is an abdominal muscle that helps regulate breathing and supports the spinal muscles.
“My rectus, which is the top layer of the abdomen, was torn from my pubic bone,” Speas said. “It’s real low. It was completely torn so they had to reattach it there. I’m just glad it got fixed. It’s pretty much fully healed. There’s mesh in there but it feels good.”
The team had high hopes for the former Crew Soccer Academy standout heading into the season and with numerous teammates hurt, Speas likely would have made his MLS debut at some point.
“With our injuries, he would definitely have had a chance to play,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “The injury set him back basically six months. He’s going to play some reserve games. When he gets his fitness back and is pain free he is going to push somebody.”
Speas, at 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds, can play in the midfield as he did at Akron for two seasons — helping the Zips win the 2010 NCAA title — or up top in his lone year with North Carolina after transferring.
He totaled 11 goals and 16 assists in 76 games (40 starts) for the two programs. He had 24 points (seven goals and 10 assists) this past season, most notably scoring the game-winner on a left-footed strike just outside the penalty area against Charlotte for the 1-0 victory.
“I’m ready to go,” he said. “I’m excited I’m healthy again and, hopefully, I can help the team wherever they need me.”