Deep into regular time on Saturday night -- with his side clinging to a 1-0 lead in Montreal -- Fire fans were treated to a sight they hadn’t seen in just shy of two months: A healthy Brandon Vincent patrolling the left touch line.
"It was a good feeling,” Vincent, who had been sidelined with a quad injury prior to his 89th minute entrance, said. "It wasn’t quite what we had planned, but (defender Patrick) Doody unfortunately went down. I was feeling good and I think mentally it was good to get in those last five minutes to get that first run around back in a full game mentality and get that first breath back in the game.”
Vincent’s inclusion in Saturday night’s victory marked his first appearance since being scratched during warmups prior to the team’s matchup at New York City FC on July 22nd. After scoring his first professional goal in a 2-2 draw at Portland on July 5, then waiting 18 days to get back on the field after the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup break, the pregame exit that day was an exceptionally frustrating one for the 23-year-old.
“Honestly, it was just scary for me,” he said. "It was my first real injury, so when it happened during the warm up, (there was) a lot of emotion. I was angry, scared, upset, just frustrated at the situation in general. It was a game that I was really looking forward to playing after the break and getting back in there.”
Vincent had played every minute of every competition for the Fire up to that point in 2017, and would subsequently miss the team’s next seven matches to rehab. Prior to the injury, he’d been approaching something of an “iron man” status after additionally racking up 2,191 MLS minutes as a rookie last season -- the fourth-highest total on the team.
"I think it was my body talking to me a little bit and telling me that I needed to calm it down,” he said. "It was a serious injury from my standpoint, but in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t too bad. The optimism that way kept me in the right mindset in approaching rehab, and day-in day-out staying focused and trying to get back as soon as possible. It’s been a while, but now we’re here and ready to move on."
Being mostly unfamiliar with the hobbled life, Vincent is approaching his return to fitness carefully while being fully cleared to participate in training.
"I’m full go as far as training goes this week," he said. "Obviously I’ll be smart with the quad if its feels a little bit sore one day or the other, but my plan is to hopefully be back in the lineup. Whatever the coaches need me to do to be back, I’ll do it. That’s my plan."
Vincent will then look to reassert himself among head coach Veljko Paunovic’s first-choice lineup ahead of this Saturday’s visit from the New York Red Bulls (3 pm CT, UniMas | TICKETS) -- fortuitous timing given Doody's uncertain status after picking up that knock on Saturday. With Eastern Conference playoff seeding on the line, the significance of a return in front of the Toyota Park faithful this weekend would not be lost on California native.
"If I can get a chance to get back in the eleven here at home, that would be a dream come true,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve played, so getting to come back in front of the home fans in an important match against the Red Bulls -- a good team -- hopefully we can make it happen."