When Sporting Kansas City kicks off the 2013 MLS season Saturday against the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park in West Chester, Pa., it will do so without forwards Jacob Peterson and Teal Bunbury.
Peterson, who had shoulder surgery Nov. 16, won’t be cleared for full contact by doctors until mid-March, while Bunbury had reconstructive knee surgery Aug. 30 after tearing the ACL in his left knee.
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Still, both are on track to make full and fairly speedy recoveries.
“The doctor said he won’t clear me until the four-month date,” Peterson said. “That’s as soon as I could be back. At four months, the ligaments are completely healed. Hopefully, I’m getting close. I did a fitness test (Feb. 14). I wasn’t where I’m usually at, but I wasn’t far off. It’s definitely coming along well.”
Peterson suffered the original injury July 28 while diving for a header in a loss against Columbus at Sporting Park. He returned after missing five matches, but had surgery after Sporting KC was eliminated from the MLS playoffs.
Trainers are allowing Peterson to do noncontact drills — finishing work and other technical drills — but there’s an abundance of caution about making sure the shoulder is completely healed and the surrounding muscles strong before subjecting him to match play.
Peterson appeared in 23 matches for Sporting KC last season and had matched his career-high with four goals. He was emerging as one of the club’s top scoring options and had won over the fans with his hard-nosed style before the setback.
It’s not the first time Peterson’s career has been derailed by injury.
“I’ve had some good runs in my career before,” Peterson said. “Unfortunately, they’ve sometimes been shortened by injury. I had the same thing happen in Colorado when I tore my ACL. Timing hasn’t always been the best. I don’t know if it’s the best run of form I’ve had, but it was a good run of form and I was happy with the way I was contributing to the team.”
For now, as Tom Petty famously sang, the waiting is the hardest part.
“It’s going to be difficult waiting out, but it’s not my first or second year,” Peterson said. “I’ve been in the league awhile, so I know how this works. I’ve been through it with my ACL before. I’ve had injuries here and there where you feel good enough to play, but maybe you just aren’t yet.
“If you come back too early, you can frustrate yourself even more. I’m completely comfortable with the training staff here. I have 100 percent faith, and I’m listening to those guys. When they tell my I’m ready, I’ll be ready.”
Meanwhile, Bunbury has never had to deal with such catastrophe, but he’s worked every bit as hard and is every bit as eager to get back on the field.
“It’s been a rollercoaster type thing,” Bunbury said. “There’s days, if I’m being honest, where I’m like, ‘This (stinks). I want to be out there. I want to be playing,’ but I feel like it’s a blessing also.
“I feel like I was doing well, but maybe a little of my passion had slipped away a little bit. For an injury like this to happen, it really showed me how much I miss the game and have a passion for it and a love for the game.”
Bunbury isn’t likely to return until some time in June, but that’s fine with coach Peter Vermes.
“I’ve got to make sure those guys are ready when the summertime comes, because that’s when we really start hitting a lot of games — probably May and on,” he said.
By the time Sporting KC enters into the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fray in June and begins CONCACAF Champions’ League in August, Vermes hopes to have his entire roster healthy and at his disposal.