- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

When D.C. United defender Jed Zayner tore the ACL, MCL and PCL ligaments in his left knee early in his rookie season with the Columbus Crew, he was faced with an injury so severe it left him one more knee problem away from almost certainly ending his career.

Five years later, in the first game of this season, Zayner suffered another injury — this time, a strained left hamstring. On top of that, he re-strained the same one when he returned to the lineup a little more than a month later.

Though not nearly as devastating as the ligament tears he suffered as a rookie, the hamstring problems have been more difficult to endure, in Zayner’s mind.

“[In 2006], I did it, I had six to eight months out and I was back; at least I had that in my mind,” Zayner said. “This time, it was like ‘Strain, three weeks, ugh, injured again, strain — OK, out for four weeks — injured again.”

But another month and a half later, Zayner is healthy. After participating in the team’s training session Tuesday, Zayner told reporters he’s ready to go a full 90 minutes — and is particularly pumped after the team’s 4-2 home loss to San Jose last Saturday that ended a five-game unbeaten streak and exposed a young back line.

Three of the four defenders who started against the Earthquakes are younger than 23. Zayner, who’s 26, is hoping that when he does get back in the starting 11, the extra experience will be a factor.

“It’s been a long 2 1/2 months; an annoying 2 1/2 months of [being] injury-laden with the hamstring and seeing the boys go up and down,” Zayner said. “And [when I return] I hope to bring a little bit more of a veteran experience to the table.”

Such remarks are likely soothing to United coach Ben Olsen, who is craving defensive consistency.

“I’ll tell you what, man, I love these guys so much,” Zayner said. “They’re so encouraging, motivating; no matter how down you are about getting injured, they make sure to keep you up and up every day.”

When asked about Zayner, Olsen was at first far more modest when talking about his ability to keep his players confident - especially in injury.

“A lot of that is up to him, really. We just try to make him keep pushing every day and get himself in the training [sessions] so he’s up to full speed, so he’s ready when he gets to game speed, which is always a little bit different,” Olsen said.

He paused for a second, perhaps immersed in his thoughts on the delicate matter of injuries, before continuing.

“It’s tough though, right? I think he’s champing at the bit to get back out there,” Olsen said. “Again, we have to evaluate who we have, who’s healthy and we’ll go from there this weekend.

“It’s good to have him back.”

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