For most 22-year-olds who have never been capped by their national team, Babayele Sodade got the dream phone call when the Canadian National Team called on December 26 to invite him to January camp.
For Sodade, the notion of playing for his country and maybe having the opportunity to go head-to-head with three teammates from the 2012 Sounders FC roster when Canada meets the US in a friendly on January 29 at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium was nearly a no-brainer.
However, the second-year forward out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham opted instead to pass up the chance.
That is because Sodade is in the late stages of recovery from a torn ACL that knocked him out of action for the Sounders FC practically before he was even able to get started.
While playing for Canada in the Olympic qualifying tournament in March, Sodade caught his cleat in the grass at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee, and twisted his knee badly enough to require surgery, ending his chance of contributing to the cause for the Sounders FC in 2012.
When he got called to join Canada in training camp, he took his time, consulting his family as well as the coaching staffs for both the Sounders FC and Canadian National Team before finally opting to focus himself on a patient recovery rather than rushing back to action.
“We just figured it was the right thing to do not to go. They know where I am in my recovery and it will be better for me in the long run - both with my club and my country,” he said.
It’s been a trying year for Sodade. After being selected in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft in January, he joined the Sounders in training camp, impressing along each stop with his size and speed. When he got called in for the Olympic qualifying tournament, it was a great opportunity for him to see some crucial playing time in an important tournament. After just 22 minutes, though, that dream came to pass.
The rehab was rigorous, but started with four months of relative inactivity that drove Sodade up the wall.
“I don’t like running, just to run,” he said. “For two months, I was enjoying being able to run.”
He has made good progress, but still is not in the form that would see him playing in full matches. And while the match against the US is just a friendly, Canada is at a different stage in their cycle and each match is an evaluation tool for the future of the Canadian National Team, as Canada is out of World Cup qualifying and is putting together their squad for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“It was my first call-up. It would be fun, but I have to be smart amount it,” Sodade said. “I can’t risk my career for a friendly.”
He has clearly impressed on the international stage, but Sounders fans have not likely had the chance to see him play yet. In his college days, he scored 29 goals in four years with the Blazers, including 13 as a senior.
He says he is now nearing 90-percent and hopes to be back to 100-percent by the time the Sounders get out of training camp. It is for that reason that he is approaching 2013 training camp with a different feeling than in his rookies season.
“Last year I was excited. This year I’m more relaxed and I want to get my job done,” he said. “I’m still technically a rookie, but I don’t have rookie excitements.”
The Sounders open training camp on Monday at Starfire and will head to Casa Grande, Arizona, on January 29.