MLS is Back Tournament: These key players are back from injury and ready to go

There's no way to write anything that paints the league's suspension due to the COVID-19 outbreak as some positive for any players. It'd crudely belie the fact that the globe is wrapped in a global pandemic incomparable to any over the last century. There are no winners.

With that (important) caveat aside, there is the factual notion that some key injured players across the league have missed fewer games than expected while recovering from injuries. Now, with the league returning Wednesday (!) with the MLS is Back Tournament, a number of stars are available for selection again, recovered from injuries.

Michael Bradley, Pablo Piatti

Michael Bradley | USA Today Sports Images

Already one of the deepest midfield groups in the league, Toronto FC will be boosted by the returns of Michael Bradley and Pablo Piatti for the MLS is Back Tournament. 

Bradley, TFC's captain, was set to miss nearly half of the season with an ankle injury suffered in MLS Cup. The 32-year-old has been a model of consistency since joining Toronto, playing no fewer than 24 games in his six seasons with the club despite also being a fulcrum of the US national team. He's expected to slot right back into the starting XI in defensive midfield.

Piatti, who was signed as Toronto's third Designated Player this winter, is a more complicated case. The 31-year-old winger was a productive player in La Liga, but has been undone by injuries of his own before his move to Toronto, then picked up a hamstring injury this preseason. He's in line for his debut and will figure into a crowded crop of wingers.

Julian Carranza

A battle for the coveted role of starting center forward for Inter Miami CF, Julian Carranza and Robbie Robinson have each endured injury setbacks. Carranza's came first, suffering a foot injury in preseason, opening the door for Robinson to start the club's first two games in existence. The No. 1 overall SuperDraft pick didn't get on the scoresheet but picked up an assist and plaudits along the way before an apparent knee injury in the club's second match would have ruled him out for a few weeks. 

Robinson was set to return at the tournament after returning to full training, but on Monday sporting director Paul McDonough revealed to the Miami Herald that Robinson has left the bubble for personal reasons and will not be with the team this month. 

Carranza, who joined Miami for a reported $6 million transfer fee, will get his chance to lead the lines and convince McDonough the club don't need to add another forward with their final DP slot. Matt Doyle covered this in a recent column diving deep into every team's No. 9 situation. As always, well worth the read. 

Miles Robinson

Miles Robinson | USA Today Sports Images

With separate injuries sandwiched around the end of 2019 and the start of 2020, the last we saw a healthy Miles Robinson was back in October. He was wrapping up a breakout campaign in which he was one of the top defenders in MLS, but picked up an injury on international duty with the USMNT which ruled him out for Atlanta's entire playoff run. 

Then, ready for an encore in 2020, Robinson endured a quad strain in Atlanta's final preseason game. He's yet to feature in 2020 across MLS and Champions League play. 

Robinson is expected to anchor Atlanta's defense at the tournament, starting with a tasty matchup against the New York Red Bulls

Milton Valenzuela 

Milton Valenzuela lost the entirety of 2019 to a torn ACL and, after returning to start both of Columbus' first two matches of 2020, was set to miss a few more weeks with a torn meniscus. Those few weeks coincided with the beginning of the league's suspension, leaving him rehabbing at home. He's back to health and fitness, ready to go for the tournament. 

The rising fullback, and former Argentina U-20 defender, is the Crew's unquestioned first choice left back. Columbus return to play with a derby match against FC Cincinnati on July 11. 

Houston Dynamo quartet

Perhaps four members of the Houston Dynamo's starting XI are healthy again ahead of the tournament. 

Alberth Elis (thigh), Jose Bizama (ankle), Kiki Struna (knee) and Darwin Quintero (thigh) are all in full training and available for selection. The Dynamo open play in Group F against LAFC on July 13. 

On top of getting a number of players back fit, first-year Dynamo boss Tab Ramos spoke of the benefit of extra time with his new team.

"We're in a better place from a team standpoint, well because we'll have Alberth and Darwin when we start, but also the human aspect," Ramos said in May. "We're in a different place now than we were before, I think this is an advantage for us. I feel so much better as a new coach the way I know the players personally, their families and who they are than I did two months ago. When we come back, we'll be ready to go."  

Adama Diomande

Adama Diomande | USA Today Sports Images

A broken metatarsal kept Adama Diomande out of CCL and MLS play to start the season, and in his absence, Bob Bradley played his three DP wingers (Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez) as the club's front three. 

With Vela reportedly opting out of the tournament, Dio is likely to slot into his natural center forward spot with Rossi and Rodriguez on either flank. There's also Bradley Wright-Phillips on LAFC's roster.  

Carles Gil

Carles Gil | USA Today Sports Images

A foot injury kept Carles Gil out for all of preseason as well as the club's first two matches of 2020 but he's back in full training and ready to go for the league's resumption. 

Expectations are high for the 2019 MLS Newcomer of the Year winner, dazzling in his debut season with 10 goals and 14 assists. He also started every game, picked up the captain's armband and was a model of consistency through the club's slow start then improved second half. Goalscorers (and fellow DPs) Gustavo Bou and Adam Buksa will relish his service back in the starting XI. 

How Bruce Arena sets up his panoply of attacking talent is another matter and an interesting subplot to the Revs' stay in Orlando.

Kai Wagner

Regarded by many as last season's top-performing left back in the league, Kai Wagner's 2020 never got off the blocks. He entered preseason with some injury clouds that never dispersed before the matches rolled around. A calf injury held him out of the Philadelphia Union's first two games with no firm timetable for a return.

“The injury was harder than everybody thought," Wagner told media in May, via Brotherly Game. "We had no idea for the first few weeks what the injury was and how bad the injury was.’’

In the months without games, he continued his rehab at home and was able to take part in individual training sessions and is ready to go for the tournament. Though Homegrown left back Matt Real started both of Philly's first two games of the season at the position and looked solid, Curtin wasted no time in saying Wagner is the undisputed starter when fit this week.

Real has been on the prospect radar at both club and country (he was on the United States' U-20 World Cup squad at last year's tournament). The 20-year-old will continue to serve as the club's primary back up at the position. 

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