Chivas' Gavin hopes to mark recovery with return
CARSON, Calif. — Seven months after a hamstring injury ended Blair Gavin’s 2010 season, the Chivas USA midfielder is finally approaching full fitness and is ready to resume his role as the creative spark for the Rojiblancos.
Gavin is hopeful of participating in Chivas USA’s second exhibition game of the preseason on Monday. Should the 22-year-old appear against the San Jose Earthquakes, it’ll mark a return from five months of rehab and his first game back since going down in a victory over the Columbus Crew on July 31. The midfielder couldn’t be more ready.
"Once I start playing those friendly games, I'll get back to rhythm,” said Gavin. “I hope to play on Monday. We talked to the training staff and the coaches. I just want to get back on the field as soon as possible."
Prior to suffering the hamstring injury, Gavin was having a Rookie-of-the-Year-caliber season for the Rojiblancos. A tireless worker, he quickly earned a starting role in the midfield with his skillful passing and creativity in the center. He scored three goals – including one against the Crew – and an assist on the year before the injury ended his season.
WATCH: Gavin scores on the Crew
Gavin tried battling back to full fitness, but in October, just when he was ready to go in the Clásico against the LA Galaxy, he re-aggravated his hamstring injury the day before the match. When the club fell out of playoff contention, Gavin was shut down and allowed to rest for the remainder of the season. Unable to play, he struggled with confidence, but felt that the situation was really just a blessing in disguise.
“It was tough and mentally it was exhausting,” said Gavin. “I worked so hard to get back and then I would get back and then fall out, but it was a learning curve for me to be more professional.
“[Now], instead of going into practice, showering and leaving immediately, I take time … and do the right things. This is a career that I want for a long time.”
A star with the Akron Zips in college and drafted with the eighth overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, Gavin was one of the most highly-touted players coming into the league last year. His new head coach Robin Fraser admits that since his time as an assistant at Real Salt Lake, he has been a great admirer of Gavin’s skill set.
Although the Rojiblancos have spent much for their preseason so far focusing on fitness drills with minimal ball work, Fraser remains impressed at how the midfielder has battled back.
"He looks great and his fitness is fantastic. He has a truly competitive mentality where the more that he is heaped upon him, the more that he tries," said Fraser. "I've liked Blair before I came in, I liked him in college and I've been more pleasantly surprised with how good his feet are and how he has recovered from his injury."
As Gavin looks to approach the level of success that he enjoyed last season, he should play an integral part of Fraser’s plans. Gavin is not shy to admit that Fraser has been more than helpful as he works towards full fitness.
"Robin has been great with me and has told me that if I need time, that he would provide it,” said Gavin. “He told me, ‘We need you back for March 19, not tomorrow.’”
“I need to keep working to get back to the level that I was at and hopefully even better. That's my goal.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano