CARSON, Calif. – Omar Salgado knows his chance to play in the FIFA U-20 World Cup this summer in Turkey is slipping away, but there's nothing he can do about it. He's in camp with the US team, doing his best to impress Tab Ramos and his staff, yet his ailing right foot just isn't cooperating.
The Vancouver forward broke his fifth metatarsal in a U-20 friendly against Uruguay last June, then reinjured it in an MLS Reserve League game after returning to the Whitecaps in late October. It's supposed to be fine now, but there's still pain and he's made it clear in training the past week at the Home Depot Center that he's nowhere near full strength.
“It's a tough question, really,” Ramos responded when asked what Salgado needed to do to make the roster for the World Cup, which begins June 21. “It's a conversation we're going to need to have when this camp [ends Monday]. We do feel he is a little bit behind, and I think it's something we're going to have to discuss with the medical staff and see really where he is and if it's doable for him to be prepared a month from now to really help us.”
Salgado, 19, thought he would be ready to go by now, but his offseason rehab was hampered by leg injuries and his preseason with Vancouver marked by soreness in his foot. He has made two appearances for the 'Caps' reserve team but has played for the first team only once, in October, in the past 11 months.
“I don't think I came ready for this camp. I came in 70, 80 percent, and you can tell,” Salgado told MLSsoccer.com. “It's kind of frustrating, but I came to do the best I could and, hopefully, to make that World Cup team, but I understand that's a long shot.”
The 6-foot-4 Texan figured mightily in Ramos' plans for the U-20s after debuting for the team at 16, during the last cycle. He developed at Guadalajara but had to leave the club, which uses only Mexican players, after committing to the US, and Vancouver nabbed him with the first pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft.
Salgado has been in four camps with the U-20s since the start of 2012.
“Omar is coming from the last U-20 group. He was a younger player on the last one,” said Ramos, whose pool has repeatedly been thinned by injury. “He was certainly one of the guys that I was hoping to build our team around. He has been a big loss for us, certainly.”
Salgado's primary aim is to get fully healthy so he can gain full fitness and find the kind of form that impressed with the Whitecaps last spring. He had been playing regularly – and, at times, spectacularly – before the first injury hit.
“It keeps getting more and more complicated,” he said. “They tell me that [the foot is] normal. That's all they can really tell me, because the bone looks healed. I feel a little pain, but it's frustrating that it does stop me or limit me from playing 100 percent. I'm just trying to get over that hump and, hopefully, succeed after that.”
Ramos must in the next few weeks select a 30-man roster from which he'll choose his team, so Salgado needs to be ready – or convince the former US star that he will be ready by mid-June – to make that list. He says he is “hoping for the best.”
“I hope the coach understands I'm not 100 percent,” Salgado said. “And, hopefully, a month or a month and a half before the World Cup starts, I'll be at that 100 percent that he needs me at.”