In July of last year, things were looking bright for Los Angeles Football Club midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye.
The Canadian international was starting to get into a groove with his new club and his impact was starting to be felt.
Two goals and three assists in 11 matches leading up to a date in El Trafico had put Kaye on track to potentially lead a dangerous LAFC midfield, looking to earn a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs during its inaugural season.
Then, disaster struck.
In the 20th minute of the match with LA Galaxy, Kaye suffered a broken ankle and would be out for the rest of the season.
#LAFC coach Bob BRADLEY confirms Mark Anthony Kaye is out for the season. Rehab for surgery on his ankle expected to take about 6 months— Kevin Baxter (@kbaxter11) August 2, 2018
The news hit home with LAFC coach Bob Bradley after the 2-2 draw with the Galaxy.
“I’ll start with the worst news of the night; it’s Mark-Anthony Kaye. He fractured the inside part of his ankle and will get surgery, so that part had me in a bad mood since I got the report at halftime,” Bradley said after the game.
The absence left the club wondering who would step up to fill the shoes Kaye had so diligently – albeit somewhat unexpectedly – worn since the beginning of the season.
While LAFC would go on to finish the season and make the playoffs, the road to getting back to a starting spot with LAFC would not be easy for Kaye.
In a cast, Kaye went to just about every practice and maintained that link with the team he sorely missed while being off the pitch. He went so far as to co-host game broadcasts just to keep that connection.
“The toughest part of it is battling through, coming back after the surgery, and learning how to walk again, how to run again,” said Kaye. “I was around the team the whole time, so I wasn’t able to play, but I still felt part of the group.”
But, after an ankle surgery and months of rehabilitation, Kaye was first rewarded with a three-year deal with LAFC in December.
”Mark is a really important player for us,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said, as quoted by Sportnet in Canada. “From the start he was open, he listened and he applied our ideas. Before the injury, he was improving week by week. He has a bright future and I believe he will be back better than ever next year.”
A month later, Kaye got back on the pitch for the first time since August during a team practice in Los Angeles.
“Yeah, from a physical standpoint, I’m cleared to train with the team,” Kaye said, during a news conference following his first practice with the team. “But, obviously I have a high standard for myself and you’re not off for six months, return in three days get that back.”
He would get back to competition less than a month later, featuring in a pre-season match against Columbus Crew SC.
“It felt good to be in a pressurized situation with outside competition,” Kaye said, in a post-match interview. “It’s something I wanted to tick off the list … to get into a competitive match with an outside opponent … so, now that that’s done pretty early into preseason, I have a good idea of where I can get to before the home opener.”
That home opener, Sunday night against Sporting Kansas City, was anything but pretty.
But, two unanswered goals – including an extra-time winner by Adama Diomande – set LAFC off on the right foot for the 2019 season.
Perhaps, more importantly, it also got Kaye back into the action after a tough injury and a long hiatus, despite the fact Kaye was sporting a protective mask after taking a hit in practice earlier in the week.
While it wasn’t the greatest performance, Kaye had moments, including slotting a ball to Diego Rossi in the first half, but Rossi’s shot went wide.
He had opportunities as well. Fellow midfielder Lee Nguyen found Kaye in an advantageous position and fed him the ball, but Kaye was whistled offside.
He also showed the ankle isn’t a problem, going toe-to-toe with Roger Espinoza – who subsequently earned a second yellow card for a tackle on Kaye late in the match.
“Last night was something I’ve been missing for a long time,” Kaye tweeted Monday after the 2-1 home win. “Thank you to all my teammates and staff @LAFC and @LAFC3252 for sticking by me this whole time. I didn’t play the best I could last night but it’s a step in the right direction and I will continue to improve. #Grateful.”
No Mark-Anthony. Welcome back. It is we who are grateful for your return.
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