One of the Chicago Fire’s most promising acquisitions this past offseason was rookie central defender Grant Lillard. The 22-year-old was signed as a Homegrown Player following his last season with Indiana, which he led to the NCAA College Cup Final and earned honors as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-American.
But a knee injury in a preseason scrimmage against Montreal in February put him on the shelf for over a month and cost him some playing opportunities at the start of the new MLS season.
Today, however, there’s some good news amidst an otherwise dismal outlook for the Men In Red: Lillard is back in training and could potentially play this Saturday against Portland.
“It’s great to be out there again playing,” Lillard said for the club website. “My knee feels 100 percent. I don’t have any second thoughts when I’m out there. No hesitations. That’s obviously really nice, being healthy again. Now I’m just working on getting sharp, getting fit, just getting back into the flow of things.”
Lillard faces a bit of a challenge getting into first team contention, as his injury cut short his preseason prep. He’ll have to play catch-up to everyone else. But Lillard isn’t complaining.
“I’m just putting in the hard work, doing little extra things, but just focusing on having my mind right for every single training session (and) getting the little details down again,” Lillard said. “I missed some time, and with that you have to put in a little work to catch up to everyone else. It’s just nice to be back playing again, so it’s fun.”
For many Fire fans, Lillard’s return to health comes not a moment too soon.