A month after one of the scariest incidents of his career, Karl Ouimette is ready to finally get back on the field.
On May 7, while on loan to New York Red Bulls II in the USL, Ouimette was viciously kicked in the back by opponent Romeo Parkes, who was subsequently released by the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Fortunately, Ouimette wasn’t seriously injured – the only lingering effect is occasional back tightness. But the 23-year-old has been out of action since that game, suspended thanks to a tussle with Parkes that preceded the late-game kick.
“We tangled in the box, there was a bit of pushing and shoving,” Ouimette told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday. “We got issued red cards for that.
“Afterwards, I think it was just frustration on his part because I didn’t say anything to him or try to insult him in any way.”
His three-game suspension now served, Ouimette is in Austria with the Canadian national team ahead of upcoming friendlies against Azerbaijan (Friday, 1 pm ET, ) and Uzbekistan (June 7, 10 pm ET), and eager to move beyond the Parkes incident.
“Playing games is what you want to do as a footballer,” he said. “It’s going to be nice to be back on the field, and hopefully it goes well.”
A national team camp could be the ideal setting for Ouimette to move beyond the Parkes incident, given the positive experiences he’s had with Canada in recent years.
He made his senior-team debut in 2013 and became a regular feature on the squad once the team’s World Cup qualifying campaign ramped up in 2015.
Last November, he started Canada’s first two games of the semifinal round, helping earn a pair of clean sheets in a home win over Honduras and goalless draw in El Salvador. He was also on the squad that in March played two qualifiers against Mexico in front of crowds of nearly 55,000 (BC Place) and 65,000 (Estadio Azteca).
“It’s always great to have those experiences,” he said. “All those experiences, I put them as [positive] baggage for later on. I know what to expect with a full crowd.”
Building on that positivity, Ouimette believes the team is well equipped to handle its next pair of Russia 2018 qualifiers, coming up in September. One of those will be a return to Honduras, where Canada suffered a humiliating 8-1 defeat four years ago.
But as Ouimette is endeavoring to prove, the best way to erase negative on-field memories is to get right back out there and make some positive ones – starting on Friday against Azerbaijan.