Konrad Warzycha lost what should have been his rookie season to a knee injury. Given another chance in 2012, he hasn’t lost any time in showing off the power in his surgically repaired right leg.
Warzycha’s wickedly bending free kick did more than give Sporting Kansas City a 2-1 win over San Jose in last weekend’s preseason opener, it also gave the young midfielder, Sporting’s third-round pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, the sense that he was back on track and ready to contend for playing time.
“I heard the coaches yelling for me to take it,” Warzycha told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday, speaking from the team’s training camp in Tucson, Ariz. “Once it went in, it showed that their faith in me had paid off. It felt really good.”
Just being on the pitch at all this year will put Warzycha well ahead of 2011, when he got hurt in a preseason scrimmage. But almost from the moment he got the news that his season was over before it even started, Warzycha was getting reassurances from manager Peter Vermes that he still figured into the long-term plans.
“He was great,” Warzycha said of his coach. “He told me the coaches liked what they saw the first couple of weeks. [Suffering the injury] was devastating at first because nobody likes to be told they’re going to be out for a year, but then I just started concentrating on getting healthy again and being ready for this season.”
That meant surgery, then intensive rehabilitation before he could even think about kicking a ball around again.
“You have a lot of little things to do in rehab,” he said. “It’s coming in each day, doing what they ask and not cutting corners. A lot of it was just laying down and doing little leg lifts with five-pound weights. It’s easy to cut corners, but you can’t.”
Nor, he found out, was he supposed to do more than the assigned work.
“They did warn me, saying how important it was not to do that,” he said. “Luckily, I listened to the doctors – but I did get in trouble a few times for juggling the ball when I was supposed to just be out walking around.”
Warzycha’s father, former Polish international Robert Warzycha, played professional soccer for 18 years and now manages the Columbus Crew. But when it came to rehab, the younger Warzycha said, dad was strictly hands-off.
“He really doesn’t mix business with family,” the younger Warzycha said. “He was just like any other dad. He just told me to keep my head up and keep working hard.”
The payoff for that hard work is another challenge: competing for minutes in Sporting’s already-crowded midfield corps.
“I’ve never played a 4-3-3 before, so it’s a matter of getting out on the field and getting adjusted to the movement,” Warzycha said. “The midfield sees a lot of action in the 4-3-3, gets involved in the offense a lot. I love that and I want to be a part of it.”