Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Long Road Back

It was supposed to be another good year for Marshall Leonard in 2006. Coming off of his best season yet in 2005, one in which he started a career-high 25 games and chalked up his first MLS goal, the former Virginia Cavalier was poised to continue his success the following year.

Then, soon after his first action of the season in a mid-April match vs. Kansas City, it all came to a crashing halt.

During an early-season scrimmage vs. Boston College on April 24, Leonard was on the lower Gillette Stadium field when, while reversing his direction, he felt a sudden pop in his left leg. His Achilles tendon had ruptured.

That evening, he underwent reconstructive surgery to repair the injured tendon. The injury, which typically sidelines an athlete anywhere from 6-8 months, was indeed serious enough for the Revs to place him on the season-ending injury list, which effectively ended his 2006 season. For all intents and purposes, the remainder of what was to be a promising season for the Revolution midfielder would be limited to a very long road of recovery and rehabilitation.

Unable to practice and work out with the rest of the club for the majority of the season, he slowly worked his way back. He began to train with the team toward the end of the 2006 season, “but only at 50%”, according the 5th year veteran. “I was just able to run, just do practice drills. But I couldn’t realistically look forward to playing.”

After the season, Leonard was determined to come back fit, and stronger than ever in 2007. He committed himself to an arduous off-season workout plan in an effort to step back onto the field as quickly as possible. “Over the off-season, I really worked out alot. A buddy of mine was pretty much my personal trainer throughout (the off-season). So, I’m ready to go out now. I’m fit.”

It wasn’t until the 2007 preseason – nearly year after the injury occurred – that he was able test his newly-repaired Achilles in game action. Since then, he has no concerns about his Achilles heading into the season.

“My Achilles feels fine, I’m fit, and I’m feeling really strong. Hopefully, it’ll be ok. It’s a day in and day out process for me.”

After months of recovery and regaining fitness, Leonard is eager to be back on the field with his teammates tonight versus Chicago.

It’s unquestionably difficult for a player injured for an extended amount of time to thrust himself back into the starting lineup. However, the present odds seem to be favoring Leonard. Joe Franchino's recent leave of absence from the team leaves the club thin at left midfielder. Leonard coincidentally took over the left wing duties when Franchino was injured back in 2004, and may be in prime to position to reclaim the same spot just as the season is about to start.

Of course, Leonard may have to battle speedy newcomer Amaeche Igwe, another player who may help fill the void in the midfield left by Franchino's departure, but Leonard isn’t concerned. “The coaches know what I can do on the field. It’s basically just (a matter of) getting back on the field.”

Nevertheless, Leonard’s more focused on the important thing: being healthy enough to contribute.

“It’s good to be back and be healthy, number one. It’s good to be back with the team. And I’m looking to get back onto the field and produce as well. I’m feeling 100%.”

Suffice to say, it's been a long road back for the low-key and likeable Leonard.

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