AVE MARIA, Fla. -- A familiar face rolled into the first phase of preseason camp this week in the form of former Fire defender Tim Ward.
One of 10 unsigned players currently with the side in Ave Maria, Fla., the one-time Chicago right back is attempting to make a return to MLS after an originally misdiagnosed hamstring tear has kept him away from playing much of the past two years.
Three days into preseason and Ward admits to playing catch-up the first few days.
“So far I’ve felt pretty good but it’s been a little difficult because I really haven’t played a ton in two years,” he told Chicago-Fire.com. “Things are coming back very quickly though and it feels good to be back training regularly again.”
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A former U.S. youth international, the Waukesha, Wisconsin product made 25 appearances for the Fire before departing in August 2010 in a trade with San Jose that was done to make roster room as Gonzalo Segares returned to the club from a stint in Cyprus.
The coach that acquired him at the time was new Fire boss Frank Yallop who immediately deployed Ward in the starting lineup as San Jose qualified for the playoffs and came within one match of the MLS Cup final that year.
The following preseason Ward picked up the hamstring injury and never fully recovered. At the end of 2012, he parted ways with the Quakes and eventually moved back to Chicago.
Unattached to a club last season, Ward had surgery to repair his partially torn hamstring tendon on July 1 and has spent the past few months rehabbing with the goal of coming into preseason with an MLS club.
It’s not by accident that his old boss in San Jose is giving him another go with the Fire this year.
“I built up my fitness and I gave Frank a call a few weeks ago,” he said. “I really enjoyed playing for him in San Jose and he said he’d give me a chance. In a way, it was fortunate for me that he came to the Fire.”
With 27 players currently signed to the Fire roster, eight of which are defenders, Ward will have his work cut out for him in his hopeful return to MLS. Jamaican international Lovel Palmer was acquired from Real Salt Lake last month and seems slated as the first-choice right back while the side used their first round SuperDraft selection on another highly rated full back in Marco Franco out of UC-Irvine.
Still, his experience combined with his ability to play both on the right and left side of the back line should help his case as Yallop looks to build depth to a Fire defensive corps that surrendered 53 goals and didn’t rotate much in 2013.
“There’s already a good group of guys on the team. I know it won’t be easy to break in but hopefully I can prove myself again to the staff and find my way in. Either way I’m thankful for the chance.”