It hasn’t been the season Rafael Ramos was hoping for. Coming off an impressive first season in MLS with Orlando City in 2015, Ramos signed a multi-year contract extension with the club during the off-season, and came into the year looking to build on that initial success.
After starting in 10 of Orlando City’s first 11 games this season, Ramos suffered an injury early in the Lions’ May 21 match against the Montreal Impact, and hasn’t returned to game action since, save for an abbreviated stint in the U.S. Open Cup, during which he re-injured his hamstring.
Almost three months watching from the sidelines.
Ramos worked his way back into training last week, and spoke after Orlando City's practice session Wednesday morning.
"It’s a little frustrating to be out for a long time, but I’m so happy to be back here now," Ramos told reporters at Wednesday’s training session. "It’s been hard work inside everyday, and I feel good now — not perfect yet — but I’ll be there."
Ramos wasn’t sure about whether or not he’ll be ready to go when the Lions travel to Denver this weekend to take on the Colorado Rapids, but put his status at about 90-95 percent.
"I don’t know yet, it depends," Ramos said about returning to game action this weekend. "Depends how I feel during this week, training these couple of days, and we’ll see if the coach wants me to play and to travel."
Hamstring issues have been a common theme throughout the 21-year-old right back’s season. Ramos came up with a hamstring knock back in the middle of April, missing just one match before returning to the starting lineup for each of the Lions’ next five games before the injury resurfaced — this time more serious.
Ramos, who joined Orlando City from Benfica’s youth academy in 2014 and has started in 34 of his 35 appearances for the Lions in MLS, says his second trip through the recovery process was more about doing better what he did wrong the first time, leading to the injury coming back.
"You always try to do better. When it happens again, it means I didn’t do the whole thing correct, so I tried to correct everything — try to sleep, eat well, and do everything well," he said. "I just want to make sure I’m 100 percent ready and that it won’t happen again. I don’t want this to happen ever again — ever, ever. So I just want to make sure it’s safe to get back on the field and for the whole game."
Ramos hasn't played since former head coach Adrian Heath was relieved of his duties by the club and Jason Kreis took over in the following weeks, but he’s seen the changes from watching on the sidelines and thinks the club has been improving.
"It’s progressing," he said. "It take a while because we have a new coach, new tactics, a new way of playing. But I think the team is doing very well now and we just have to work on the little things to be on the top."
But for now, Ramos is just working to make sure he can get back on the field to help contribute to Orlando City’s push for their first MLS playoff appearance this fall.