Former Chicago Fire and current Houston Dynamo forward Calen Carr has had his share of injury spells over the past several years. This year it was a concussion that he suffered during the Fire's preseason in February when the team was training in Ave Maria, Fla.
Shortly into this year's regular season, the injured Carr found himself headed to Houston as the Dynamo swapped forwards with the Fire, sending Dominic Oduro to Chicago shortly after Houston's regular-season opener.
Oduro found his shooting touch with the Fire en route to 12 goals in MLS play. Carr needed several more months of healing time before he even had a chance to prove his worth for the Dynamo.
"It's been really frustrating not being able to have a run of games where I can put together a full, healthy season," Carr said. "The concussion, some injuries have been freak injuries -- the knee injury was a freak play. The concussion was a freak injury that I felt it would just take a couple weeks but it took longer than I was expecting. I think I've done a good job of coming back from injuries and putting them behind me. I haven't had as much work this season as I would like, but I'm looking to make the most of it."
Despite missing more than two-thirds of the regular season, Carr stepped up at the right moment on Sunday, netting the Dynamo's second goal in the 30th minute to top the host Philadelphia Union, 2-1, in the first leg of its Eastern Conference Semifinal match at PPL Park. It was Houston's first playoff road victory in the team's history, and now the Dynamo hosts the Union for the second leg on Thursday at Robertson Stadium (7:30 p.m., ESPN2).
Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear has turned to Carr for valuable minutes down the stretch. Along with the Game 1 start against Philadelphia, Carr started in four of the Dynamo's final five regular-season matches.
"I'm just trying to stay active," Carr said. "We've got great players who can draw attention. Playing up front with Brian Ching, Brad Davis, they find space and you can stretch the field."
Carr admits the early-season trade out of Chicago was a difficult situation to face, especially having been with the Fire organization from the start of his MLS career in 2006. But there was some sense of familiarity in going into Houston.
"There was a level of comfort coming to the team because I've known Dominic Kinnear," Carr said. "But it was difficult because I was injured and trying to figure out how to get healthy. You want to get acclimated to the team, train and play to get to know the team, and I wasn't able to do that.
"I had a lot of great memories in Chicago -- loved the team, the organization and the city," Carr said. "It was difficult to leave after being there for so long. I felt like this was a great opportunity to come to Houston, another great organization, with a great coach and players. Like any player you also want a chance at competing for an MLS Cup. That's important."
Kinnear has certainly brought that championship-caliber track record, either at the helm or while he was assisting Frank Yallop during the San Jose Earthquakes' 2001 and 2003 title-winning seasons.
"He's a guy that I always admired from watching him when I was in the Bay Area," Carr said of Kinnear. "The success he had with San Jose, winning championships, in my first two years in the league Houston won back-to-back championships. He's been a part of some successful teams and has a great track record of success."
Carr is healthy again and is in the heart of this year's postseason as Houston currently has the upper hand over Philadelphia in trying to advance to the Eastern Conference Final stage.
"The concussion is behind me and I'm feeling really good," Carr said. "The protective headgear is precautionary, more than anything. I feel like my old self."
GK Johnson earns U-23 call-up: Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson was one of 31 players called in to the U.S. U-23 National team's Nov. 7-16 training camp at the Sportschule Wedau in Duisburg, Germany. U-23 head coach Caleb Porter could add more players to the roster based on upcoming MLS playoff matches. Johnson, 22, is coming off his second season with the Fire. He posted seven shutouts and a 9-7-12 record this past season.