It’s been a trying 10 months for Sounders FC defender Patrick Ianni.
He suffered through a groin injury. Then a back injury. Then a fractured foot injury. But finally he made his return to the pitch at CenturyLink Field on Sunday in a 2-1 win over Chivas USA. With his faith tested and patience tried, he helped Seattle to the comeback win while also nearly contributing on the offensive end with some dangerous set-play opportunities.
Although he had played there dozens of times before, lining up with the starting 11 at CenturyLink Field still wore on his nerves, but once the opening whistle sounded, it was just like old times.
Getting to that point was far from easy for the 28-year-old defender, though.
“I just tried to stay as patient as possible, but it was tough for me. I think there were times when I knew I wasn’t ready to come back but I still really wanted to get back out there. I had to be careful, because you lose days at practice if your mind is not right,” he said. “It’s always a good reminder to keep having faith and just keep pushing forward knowing your time will come.”
Ianni finished the 2012 season with successive injuries that kept him out of the final five matches of the regular season and playoffs, but felt fit and ready to go when he opened training camp in January. Then, a freak accident in fitness testing left him with a fractured foot.
In the meantime, Sounders FC signed Djimi Traore and center back minutes became just a little scarcer. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Zach Scott split the minutes as Traore’s partner and once Ianni was fit and ready to play he had to overtake both on the depth chart to earn playing time.
While he remained confident and always knew he would make his return sooner or later, it wasn’t always easy for him to wait for his name to be called.
“I knew it would come. I just was getting impatient at times and wanted it to come right away instead of just knowing it would happen,” he said. “I got clouded a little bit in terms of that.”
Pairing at center back with Traore on Sunday, Ianni was second on the team with 12 clearances and led the team with five interceptions, also winning four of his seven aerial duels.
While he played in six reserve league matches, it was stronger performances in training that gave Ianni the confidence that he wouldn’t be rusty when he returned to the field.
“I’ve been feeling good recently,” he said. “There are little things that you can’t replicate in practice and reserves games that were good to just get a feel of — crosses and different stuff that you don’t maybe get as many reps in. That stuff was good.”
Now back to full strength, Ianni gives Head Coach Sigi Schmid more options along the backline as Seattle enters the final 15 matches of the MLS calendar.
Seattle will meet FC Dallas on Saturday at CenturyLink Field in the final match of a three-week homestand.