He hadn't appeared for the San Jose Earthquakes since the the second game of the season, dealing with a lower back injury that has limited his ability to play the game he loves, but that didn't stop defender Clarence Goodson from working hard on his rehabilitation and slowly gaining the strength he would need to be able to step back into the lineup for the Quakes.
He made the match-day 18 for San Jose's U.S. Open Cup contest against the Portland Timbers on June 14, a full three months since his last MLS appearance, though he stayed on the bench that night at Providence Park during a 2-0 loss that ousted the Quakes from the tournament. In the days leading up to the Earthquakes rivalry match against the LA Galaxy at Stanford Stadium, Goodson even played in full-field scrimmages during training. A comeback looked promising for the 34-year old former U.S. international.
But then, his injury flared up again, and with his teammates and coaches well aware of the setback, Goodson slowly walked off the Earthquakes training pitch, hand clutching the small of his back. It would mark the farthest point in his progression to recovery, and it would be a moment that would prove to be his last of the 2016 season.
"I'm extremely disappointed that I cannot play and contribute to the team this season," Goodson shared yesterday via his Twitter account. "I have given everything I have to the rehab process, but unfortunately I could not get healthy enough to play games."
The news was a big blow for a team that has been struggling to keep its defensive line together, and in recent weeks has been using fourth and fifth choice center backs Marvell Wynne and Fatai Alashe in the starting line-up. The Earthquakes also announced that Goodson would undergo surgery today to repair a herniated disc in his lower back, something Goodson said was essential beyond his role as an athlete.
"At this time a surgery is necessary not just for soccer but in order to function in everyday life," Goodson wrote. "I look forward to being fully fit as soon as possible and getting back out on the field."
Goodson started in 28 games for the Earthquakes last season and was instrumental, along with center back partner Victor Bernardez, in helping new starting goalkeeper David Bingham tie the single-season club record for shutouts. Overall, the Quakes defense completed the season with the third-lowest goals-allowed (39) total in MLS, and much of the same was expected this year when Goodson was signed to a new contract in the offseason.
However, the 13-year veteran would log only 180 minutes this season in a pair of victories at Avaya Stadium to open the year that gave the Quakes a great start to their season. Since Goodson was sidelined, San Jose has only collected three wins in 16 regular season games, and the team has slipped further down the Western Conference standings in the process.
The Earthquakes and Goodson will now have a big decision to make this offseason -- whether the 34-year old can regain his health and return to the high level of play he displayed last year. Originally signed to MLS in 2004 by FC Dallas, then known as the Dallas Burn, Goodson played four seasons in Texas before moving on to Europe and playing five years in Norway and Denmark. He returned to MLS midway through the 2013 season and has called San Jose home since.
Following his successful 2015 season, the final year on his contract with the Earthquakes, Goodson indicated that he saw San Jose being "the last stop" in his career, and welcomed a chance to return to the club at which he hoped to one day retire. With news that his current back injury being as debilitating as it has proven to be, and with a lengthy recovery following surgery expected, Goodson's future with the Quakes -- indeed, as a professional athlete -- is as uncertain as ever.
UPDATE: According to a press release from the San Jose Earthquakes, Goodson "underwent a successful discectomy on Thursday afternoon to repair a herniated disc in his back. The procedure was performed by Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles and is expected to keep him sidelined for the remainder of the 2016 season."