Sounders FC goalkeeper Josh Ford hasn’t had the easiest start to his MLS career.
Drafted in the 2011 supplemental draft, Ford made the team last year as the No. 3 behind Kasey Keller and Terry Boss, but didn’t see any game action outside of the reserve league. He was on the bench for a friendly against Manchester United, and might’ve seen time when Boss sustained a concussion early in the second half, but Boss played through it.
Later in the year, when CONCACAF Champions League action rolled around, it appeared Ford might have a chance to play in an October home game against Monterrey of Mexico. Boss was ruled out with the injury and Keller was due for a night off, but a right knee injury kept Ford out, allowing Bryan Meredith, a late-season signing, to start instead.
Ford’s injury, eventually diagnosed as a stress fracture, lingered into 2012. It affected him when training camp started and the Sounders tried to limit his activity in those early weeks.
The team ultimately decided in February to shut Ford down for a while and on May 4 the team placed him on the injured list, which he was only eligible to come off of this week. The recovery still has a ways to go, but a very tangible sign of progress came Tuesday when Ford played in a scrimmage involving the Sounders FC U-23s.
“It’s been a long process, but (Tuesday) was a big step,” said Ford, who got a positive review from coach Sigi Schmid. “I’ve been practicing and been in some game-like situations, but actually being in a game against some of the guys was a really big step. It was really good in the beginning. I had a lot of action because we went against (Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson) and all those guys, so that was a really good test. The knee held up well. I’m happy with that. I just have to do a lot of icing it and recovery now. It’s been a good time. The coaches are letting me rest when I need it and practice when I can push things. It’s good. It’s a good sign.”
Ford admitted the process has taken a lot longer than had been anticipated. The 24 year old initially thought he was over it earlier this year, but “then I did one movement and kind of re-injured it to where I was again,” he said.
What Ford needed was time off, which the team was willing to give — just shut it down and handle the recovery slowly and deliberately. During the difficulty, the Sounders have patiently kept Ford on the roster, even if it meant carrying four goalkeepers (a somewhat unorthodox notion as three is generally thought to be ideal).
“That’s the thing with the organization — they’re a great group of people,” Ford said. “They’ve been really supportive with my injury and getting me through it. They’ve never left me out of any equation and I’m really happy and fortunate to be with an organization like that.
“Some of the fans have asked how I’m doing, so it’s been really positive. All the players all the team, too. It’s a lot of outpouring of support.”