Chance Myers dribbled a ball along the edge of the Sporting Kansas City practice field late last month, when he absorbed a whack on the back of his left leg — only inches from his surgically repaired Achilles’ tendon.
The bump, courtesy of a college trialist, knocked Myers to the ground, caused an abrupt halt to practice and triggered panic among teammates and coaches.
“I was getting ready to say something to the college kid,” coach Peter Vermes recalled. “And it wasn’t going to be, ‘Hey, nice job.’”
Instead, Myers quickly hopped back to his feet.
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No harm done.
“That was a big moment for me,” Myers said. “You don’t know how you’re going to react until you get hit.
“It didn’t hurt. There was no pain at all. That told me this was going to be OK — that I could trust my body again.”
To what extent? Myers will put that to the test sooner rather than later.
A two-month transition from the training field to the game field could be completed Tuesday, when Sporting KC plays host to Saint Louis FC of the United Soccer League in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Vermes said Monday that he was contemplating giving Myers his first game action of the season. Myers rejoined the club’s training sessions nearly two months ago, but he has not played in a competitive match since suffering a torn left Achilles’ on May 23, 2014.
“Training every day again has been a joy for me — I’ve just been glad to be back out there,” he said. “But it’s going to be awesome when I walk onto the (Sporting Park) field for the first time in a long time.”
The rehab process wasn’t a quick one.
As Myers described it, he was forced to “basically learn to walk again” before progressing to jumping drills, weight lifting and eventually the practice field.
But that can only replicate game action to a certain extent. Myers doesn’t expect to be 90-minutes fit Tuesday, but Vermes said offering him even one half would serve as a major step toward a full-time return.
“The biggest challenge is going to be game fitness,” Myers said. “Training is a lot different than a game. You get breaks to battle fatigue. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m really looking forward to it.”
It would be a welcomed addition for a club that already owns a seven-match unbeaten streak as it shifts from MLS play to the Open Cup competition.
Myers, a 27-year-old right outside back, appeared in 85 matches from 2011-13. He started seven of the first eight matches last season before the injury.
During his absence this year, Jalil Anibaba has assumed the starting right defender role. In his first season with Sporting KC, Anibaba has started 12 straight matches, recording four assists and one goal.
Asked what Myers could offer the club this season, Vermes was succinct with his initial response.
“A lot,” he said, before later adding, “The other intangible is his experience of being around here. He knows how to keep the group in a place where they have to stay competitive throughout the 90-minute match. That’s where he’s good.
“Leadership is something I think maybe is not used a lot when you mention his name, but for us, his leadership is a big piece that we’ve missed for awhile.”
Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
▪ WHO: Saint Louis FC at Sporting Kansas City
▪ WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Sporting Park
▪ WATCH: The match will be streamed on SportingKC.com.