Commerce City, Colo. - August 4, 2011. That was the last time Colorado Rapids defender Anthony Wallace had participated in a full training session uninhibited. Until today.
Wallace, recovering from surgery on his left Achilles, had been gradually progressing over the past few months. Of late he had been cleared to slowly be introduced to training, having days off in between sessions where he would wear a no-contact, neutral-colored bib.
But on Tuesday he was finally able to join a training session with no protection or limits.
"It feels good," Wallace told ColoradoRapids.com after practice. "It's been so long since I've been out there so it's just a happy feeling to be back training."
After falling out of favor and sitting 10 straight games in the middle of last season, he returned as a late second half substitute against Columbus in August at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. But seconds after coming on, he sustained a sprained MCL in his left knee.
While he recovered from that injury, doctors discovered damaged cartilage in his other knee. On September 19, he had microfracture surgery on his right knee and his season was over.
Things were looking up in the spring as the 23-year-old continued his rehabiliation. But on March 5, playing as a neutral in a training session less than a week before the 2012 season opener, he tore his left Achilles and was again ruled out for the year.
So getting through his first full training session in over a year was a big hurdle for the left back, although he knows there's a lot of work to be done.
"In the beginning (of practice) I felt pretty good, but towards the end, when we were playing 7-v-7, I felt kind of lost," he admitted. "That last drill was pretty intense, and everybody's game is so much higher than mine, fitness-wise. The technique is still there, but not keeping up these guys. They've been playing for so long and I'm just trying to get back into it and find my fitness."