Five months after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee, Colorado Rapids defender Diego Calderon will play his first competitive minutes on Tuesday in a Reserve League match against the Chivas USA Reserves at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
"Diego is reaching another phase in his rehabilitation," coach Oscar Pareja told ColoradoRapids.com Monday. "We've allowed him to get some soccer in, and tomorrow in the Reserve game we want to get him some minutes. We don't want to over-extend him, but we think he's reached a level where he can play 11v11."
Calderón was signed by the Rapids in January from Liga de Quito in his native Ecuador. The 26-year-old started each of the Rapids’ first four games at centerback, but underwent surgery on March 28 - five days after injuring his knee against the LA Galaxy when he collided with the goalpost when clearing a scoring attempt off the goal line.
"We've completed some very good physical therapy sessions, and now, thanks to God, I'm entering the competitive phase," Calderon said. "It doesn't hurt, I'm simply enjoying the work that we've been doing and getting into a rhythm while waiting for each training session to keep building my confidence."
Aside from winning the league championship in 2007 and 2010 with Quito, Calderon also played in the 2008 Copa Libertadores, the 2009 Copa Sudamericana, and the 2009 and 2010 Recoba Sudamericana. He has five caps with his country’s national team, and had been on the gameday squad for each of Ecuador's nine World Cup qualifying matches before his injury.
He is now one step closer to returning to first-team matches.
"It's the most important game of the year," Calderon said of the Reserve game. "I think it will give me an idea of where I am soccer-wise. I hope to take advantage of every minute and every second that I can play. I know I'm returning from a serious injury, but I'm ready to start fresh and put into practice what I know."
For Pareja, bringing Calderon back into the fold is like adding another key player for the stretch run.
"It is, because of the experience and camaraderie that Diego brings us," Pareja said. "He's a player who brings joy to the group in addition to leadership and experience. He gets along very well with the entire group, with players from different backgrounds. So we're very happy to have Diego in a more real soccer exercise."
Tuesday's Reserve League match will be played on Field 22 at 10 a.m. MT. Admittance is free and open to the public.