Pedro Ribeiro wasted no time reintroducing himself to the Orlando City faithful following his return from a hamstring tear last weekend, needing less than 20 minutes to unleash an impressive left-footed strike into the bottom right corner of goal from distance to salvage a 2-2 draw for the Lions.
As good as Ribeiro looked in limited minutes last week, however, OCSC must exercise caution as they continue to ease the 24-year-old Brazilian back into regular action. High profile players in America and abroad, such as Jozy Altidore and Diego Costa, have provided reason for apprehension as they have been consistently stricken by recurring hamstring troubles.
Altidore, who has had hamstring issues dating all the way back to 2011, is currently in the midst of what will be a four-to-five week break from Toronto FC, following a hamstring strain suffered on May 16. This injury comes about one year after Altidore saw his 2014 World Cup come to an end after just 20 minutes in the United States Men's National Team's Brazil opener against Ghana, when he suffered a grade two tear.
Costa, meanwhile, has been hampered by hamstring issues for the better part of a year himself. After leaving the 2014 UEFA Champions League Final while at Atlético Madrid, just minutes into the eventual loss to Real Madrid, Costa battled the nagging injury throughout the World Cup for Spain and was forced to miss time for Chelsea during the 2014-15 campaign due to the injury rearing its head in October -- and then again in March.
When the Brazilian-born striker tried to come back prematurely in early April, he lasted just 11 minutes before limping off the pitch after re-aggravating the persistent ailment. Costa did not appear in the starting XI for Chelsea again until the Blues had already clinched the Premier League title, playing in each of CFC's last two matches of the season after a month-long absence.
While all hamstring injuries are not created equally, these examples simply illustrate the frustrating nature of one of the most common afflictions in sport. The hamstring is so easily re-damaged due its function of decelerating the leg as it swings forward, which puts the muscle at risk at the end of each stride, especially in a sprint.
Defender Aurélien Collin's recent hamstring injury did not appear to be as serious as Ribeiro's, but the solid performance of Sean St. Ledger next to Seb Hines has allowed the center back not to rush back into action, which is certainly a good thing for the Lions in the long term.
Ribeiro was initially projected to miss two to three months following his tear, and, with a hard stint of rehabilitation, he was able to return to league action in a shade under two months. Adrian Heath said on this week's coach's call-in show that Ribeiro has worked with Silas Waszczuk, the personal physio of star player Ricardo Kaká, who also helped striker Martin Paterson rehabilitate his hamstring following a pull in the preseason.
"[Ribeiro] has worked really hard to get himself fit and well," Heath said. "He's been doing a lot of work with Silas, which is the rehabilitation coach that Kaká brought with him. I think the fact that he came back looking so sharp and looking so alive was the most important thing, because when you get back from a six-week layoff [your] hamstring can't do a lot of physical work running wise."
He did indeed look sharp in his late substitution appearance against Columbus, and there is no reason to believe that the club hasn't been handling his rehabilitation correctly, or that they will not continue to do so moving forward.
But, as the aforementioned players show us, an electric 18-minute appearance does not necessarily signify that Ribeiro is back to 90-minute match fitness, and we should expect to see him continue to be eased back into the side to prevent any tweaking of what was a fairly significant muscle injury suffered just two months ago.
With players like Brek Shea and Cyle Larin set to miss matches on international duty, starting with Shea missing out on tonight's bout with Chicago, there will be ample opportunity for Ribeiro to contribute either up top or in the attacking midfield. Keeping him healthy will be even more important with that stretch looming, as he has been one of the brightest spots for the Lions so far in this 2015 season.