TORONTO â€” Sadly, Diana Matheson has been here before. Surgery followed by long months of rehab.
In 2010, the veteran Canadian midfielder/forward was sidelined by a broken metatarsal bone in her left foot. One year later, she had surgery to repair torn cartilage in her right knee. In 2014, she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in a loss to Japan. Five months later, she broke the fifth metatarsal in her right foot during her comeback.
And today Matheson, injured while training with Canada at a camp in Los Angeles, is recovering from March surgery to repair the same anterior cruciate ligament.
“That’s plenty,” the 32-year-old from Oakville, Ont., said with a slight laugh. “I thought it was plenty before this one.”
The latest injury came on an innocent play during an intrasquad game.
“I kind of planted and I heard that pop,” she said.
Matheson finished out the final 25 minutes of the scrimmage. Tests back in Canada revealed the damage.
There was some thought about trying to soldier on without surgery but she opted for the operation. Matheson reached out to friend and goalkeeper Erin McLeod, who has just returned from her own knee surgery, while pondering her decision.
“She’s had multiple surgeries as well. We’ve compared notes in the past for different surgeries … For sure she’s going to be someone who I lean on this year as I go through things.”
On the plus side, there are no Olympics or World Cup looming this time. In the past, Matheson has had a tight deadline to get healthy.
Matheson is resigned to missing the entire NWSL season with her new Seattle Reign team. She says she will take “as much time as I need” before returning to action â€” likely 10 months to a year.
Part of that is ensuring she has a little more balance in her life during her rehab. It will be “full-time but I will have a little more freedom this year to kind of do other things.”
It’s a blow to Canada. Matheson, who is just nine caps away from 200 and scored the stoppage-time goal that won bronze at the 2012 Olympics, is a respected voice on and off the field.
Matheson is looking forward to playing alongside a new wave of Canadian young talent.
“It will be exciting to see what they do over the next few years as they develop,” she said.
One frustration is the injury came on the heels of her trade from Washington to Seattle.
“I was really looking forward to playing for Seattle this year and playing under Laura (coach Laura Harvey). I’m still going to be out there for the season, rehabbing with the group, so hopefully I can still be part of things there. But I’m looking at next season now to actually get on the field with them, which is pretty disappointing.
“But Laura and the club out there have been fantastic, they’ve been really supportive.”
Matheson had been with Washington since its inaugural 2013 season, helping the team from last place in the standings that year to the 2016 championship game (the Western New York Flash won in a penalty shootout).
She loved her teammates there, citing a great group vibe. But several of her teammates opted to move on and the roster began to reshuffle.
“The club was going through a lot of changes. I thought it was a good time for me too to have a change and I’d heard great things about Laura in Seattle. I was looking forward to getting a new experience.
“Jim (head coach Jim Gabarra) at D.C. was great about it. He could have made things difficult in me asking to move, but he honestly was just fantastic and he helped me go to a club I wanted to go to.”
Still she acknowledges that the West Coast, considering her Toronto-area roots, came as a bit of a surprise. But she has no complaints, given Harvey’s reputation and Seattle’s proximity to Vancouver where she has a network of friends and teammates.
After the 2014 surgery, Matheson worked hard to strengthen her knee. It didn’t do the trick but she plans to modify her training as needed and do whatever she can to ease the load after this surgery.
She wants to play three more seasons, to take in the next World Cup and Olympics.
“That was a big factor in deciding to get the surgery now,” she said. “I’ve got lots of time and I can hopefully get back, stay healthy and get another tournament or two out of it. That’s the goal, it’s not just to play one more pro season. It’s to look at those next big tournaments, because that’s always the pinnacle in women’s soccer.”
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press