Pearce hopes to be out less than one month with injury

Defensive leader diagnosed with pulled hamstring

Heath Pearce vs Vancouver

Photo Credit: 
Juan Miranda / Chivas USA

CARSON, Calif. — Heath Pearce has been the rock for Chivas USA's back line throughout the year and true to form, the steely defender will not allow an injury to hold him back.

The defender was injured in a “freak” incident in the open field last weekend that caused him to be removed at the 61st minute of Chivas' defeat to Real Salt Lake. Following his injury, Pearce underwent an MRI that revealed a “Grade 1” right hamstring pull, which is on the less severe side of the injury spectrum, according to the defender.

“The MRI said four to six [weeks out], but I think it’s going to be on the short side of that,” said a confident Pearce, who is hoping to return to action on Sept. 27 against Toronto FC. “I feel like this is a minor injury and it will be on the short side of the window, if not shorter. … I feel that the news of the level of the strain and the pull that it was, was the best of bad news, the best-case scenario so that’s a positive.”

The injury comes at a very difficult time for Pearce, whose stellar play for the Goats had earned him a call up to the US national team for their matches against Costa Rica and Belgium. Pearce was forced to withdraw from the squad due to his injury, but still expects to be in attendance for Friday's match against Costa Rica at the Home Depot Center. He received a few positive words from US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann this week, though Pearce admits it's painful to miss an opportunity with the national team.

Pearce has experienced issues with his right hamstring before, having suffered a “Grade 3” hamstring pull last year while playing with FC Dallas. The Chivas USA defender has stated repeatedly that this injury was not nearly as severe as last year’s hamstring strain. While Pearce is optimistic about returning, head coach Robin Fraser has preached caution.

“Hamstrings are finicky and regardless of the outlook, whether it’s rosier than initially thought, it’s still a hamstring and hamstrings are tricky,” said Fraser. “I’ve seen so many times where guys think that they’re ready and they’re not quite, so I think we have cautious optimism, but we still have to be cautious.”

With Fraser preaching caution and Pearce immensely motivated to return to the field, the task falls on Chivas USA's strength and conditioning coach Jim Liston to assure the Rojiblancos' defensive leader returns when ready. Liston has been praised by members of Chivas USA for his ability to keep the team healthy over the grueling season.

Now with the club's defensive leader on the shelf, Liston must develop a plan to get Pearce back on the field.

“Like anyone, it’s restoring the range of motion and bringing the strength back,” Liston told MLSsoccer.com. “There’s a comfort to when they can start to run and make sure that he’s in a range of motion that he’s comfortable with. You walk before you jog, you jog before you stride, you stride before you sprint and that ends up being based on any strength deficits and comfort.”

As Pearce begins his rehab, Chivas USA enjoy a bye week. Their next match is on Sept. 10 against D.C. United.

The period of rest comes at the perfect time for Pearce and the rest of the team as they battle with DC, New York, Portland and others for the last playoff spot.

"The break helps because it gives me time to focus on my body and listen to it more," said Pearce. "I'm not in any situation to rush and have to force it, I’m able to take this week to 10 days and push through and focus on my rehab and not have to worry about anything else."

Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at adam.m.serrano@gmail.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano