Sporting Kansas City officially commenced its preparation for the 2017 season Tuesday when the club opened training camp in Tucson, Ariz.
But it did so without its leading scorer over the past three years.
After undergoing offseason surgery to clean up bone spurs in his right ankle, striker Dom Dwyer will train separately from the team for approximately two weeks. But he insists it won’t cause him to miss the season opener on March 4 at D.C. United.
“My body feels great actually,” Dwyer said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s the best I’ve felt entering the preseason in my career. I’ll go a couple of weeks before I’m involved (with the team), but my legs feel great, strong, powerful.”
His absence isn’t the only one. Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi are instead with the United States men’s national team, and Matt Besler had nearly an identical operation as Dwyer to clean up bone spurs in his left ankle. Besler is also training apart from his teammates.
It’s also the first preseason since 2008 that has not included Chance Myers. A former No. 1 overall draft pick with the team, Myers signed with Portland earlier this week.
“We’ll sort of build them in as the preseason goes,” coach Peter Vermes said of Dwyer and Besler.“We’ll sort of build them in as the preseason goes,” coach Peter Vermes said of Dwyer and Besler. “But they’re both in a really good place. If we have to sacrifice a couple of weeks early on here in the preseason, so be it — because the benefit they got from getting the surgery and now moving forward is going to be very welcomed. I know both guys played with a lot of pain throughout the course of last year.”
Dwyer underwent his operation in the first week of November, and Besler followed shortly thereafter.
They were seemingly overdue. Dwyer said the pain initially flared up late in the 2015 season, but he chose to put off the surgery, electing instead for rest last offseason.
"I felt like I could still contribute, so I didn't want to miss games. That's something I wasn't willing to do," Dwyer said. "But it became apparent early on in the (2016) season that it wasn't going to go away. It was a constant battle.
"Unfortunately, the season ended a bit early, but it was almost fortunate for the injury because then I had time to get my body right and not miss any of the season."
He spent the last few months rehabbing in Kansas City, re-training his body to move properly after trainers discovered the injury altered his running.
Dwyer still managed to score 16 goals in 2016, which could be argued as the most productive scoring output of his career, considering the total did not include any penalty kicks. When he broke a franchise single-season record with 22 goals in 2014, seven came from the penalty dot.
"If a ball came to my right foot, I would just hit it and then deal with the pain," he said. "But my family started to notice that it was affecting me, so it became time to do something about it."