Clint Mathis on FSC

Mathis returns to practice

The LA Galaxy's Clint Mathis has good days and some he calls ``not so good.'' That he is able to experience such a dramatic range in emotions is a marked improvement for the 33-year-old veteran midfielder.

Mathis has been on the sidelines for most of the preseason after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, an injury that he suffered in the club’s first official training session of the year. It was only last week he returned to practice and head coach Bruce Arena guessed Mathis could be a couple of weeks away from being available for full-time duty.

“He's close,” Arena said. “A few weeks probably.”

“I'm still hesitant in certain things,” Mathis admitted. “I just want to be smart about this.”

The Galaxy acquired Mathis in a draft-day trade with Real Salt Lake. He began his career with LA as a first-round draft pick in 1998 and totaled 15 goals and 17 assists in 65 regular-season games before being sent to the MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) in May 2000 as part of a special MLS draft in which the Galaxy selected Mexican international Luis Hernandez. Mathis briefly returned to the Galaxy in November 2007 and participated on their postseason tour of Australia and New Zealand, but the stay did not last long. He signed with Ergotelis of the Greek Super League in January 2008 and spent six months there, helping the club avoid relegation before eventually joining Real Salt Lake in August of that year. He played in 39 regular season games with Salt Lake and helped the club win its first-ever MLS Cup -- against the Galaxy last November in Seattle -- but Mathis said he always had an interest in returning to Los Angeles to finish out his career.

So what happens? It was the first official day of training camp and Mathis was tracking defender Omar Gonzalez, who attempted a pass to the middle of the field. Mathis went to block it and twisted his knee.

“It was one of those you gotta be kidding kind of moments,” Mathis said with a smile. “It hurt when it happened, but kept I running and finished the training. But once it was over I pretty much knew what it was.”

Mathis had surgery to repair the meniscus on both sides of the knee and also to clean up the joint “from all the years of soccer,”

Mathis added. “It was pretty beat up.”

Now he's back. Certainly not 100 percent fitness-wise -- ``The guys have two months on me,'' he said with a grin -- but he's getting closer. He won't rush it, however, especially with the regular season in only its second game, on Thursday against archrival Chivas USA in the first 2010 edition of the SuperClasico.

“I just want to be smart and take my time,” Mathis said. “Obviously it's a day-to-day kind of thing, but at least I'm back in these trainings full go. I'm only going to get fitter and fitter the more I'm out here playing. Right now the knee feels stable, but I want to be careful.”

Arena will be cautious as well. Asked if he is being a little more careful with Mathis considering his age, Arena didn't completely agree with that summation.

“That's not relative to age as much as getting back from injury the right way,” he said. “Maybe you could argue a player a little younger could come back a little quicker than a player Clint's age. I'm not sure that's the case, but we want to be smart and see how he responds each and every day. He was on the right curve a couple of
weeks now as far as coming back.”

Mathis said he never was angry about suffering the setback at such an early point in camp.

“It was just one of those things that happen,” he said. “I've been through my fair share of knee surgeries and injuries. It's just one of those things where I have to work hard and build it back up. It was more disappointing not getting to start the season on the field with these guys, but it's a long season and we have plenty of games.”

“It's not fun watching. It's much easier to come to work every day, that's for sure.”