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Tuesday, May 31, 2011
New baby clears Conrad's head

By Scott French

Jimmy Conrad
Jimmy Conrad has been out since March 26 after suffering a concussion, be he hopes to return soon.

Did his second daughter's arrival clear Jimmy Conrad's head? He thinks it might have, and so his celebration of her birth last week has been coupled with a return to the field.

The Chivas USA defender is merely running at this point, but after missing two months because of a concussion, it's a start -- and he credits his new baby.

"I think it helped that I just really focused on the baby and helping my wife and getting all that done and stopped thinking about my head," Conrad said Tuesday. "And I think when I did that, you know, 'I actually feel all right.' ... It's a hard one, because you want to be honest about what you're feeling, but then maybe you're overthinking your own brain. But I feel like I'm back to myself."

It coincided, he said, with the birth last Tuesday of Jane Mirabelle Conrad, who joined Jimmy, his wife, Lyndsey, and 4-year-old Julia Rose. The veteran center back, who starred at Temple City High School and UCLA before embarking on an MLS career now in its 13th season, says sleep deprivation has him "walking around like a zombie," but he circled the field at a decent pace during the Goats' training session Tuesday.

He was cleared to resume training last week and, officially, is available for selection, but his return to action remains, at least, a few weeks away.

"It's one thing to go run around the field and look good doing that, it's another going up and battling guys with headers ...," said Conrad, 34, who was hurt March 26 when punched in the back of the head in an aerial battle with Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens. "I'm itching [to get onto the field]. You never get used to watching a game, but I started to be OK with it a little bit, you know, just saying this is something that's a little bit out of my hands, out of my control, and I'm just trying to be smart at this point, especially with another daughter on the way.

"You want to make sure you do your due diligence, and all the protocol, cross the T's and dot the I's."

Conrad and fellow defender Michael Lahoud, who also was cleared to train last week after a relapse to a concussion, have had to complete the new concussion protocol implemented this season by Major League Soccer. It requires symptoms be absent for a week, a neurological exam and a series of tests.

Conrad was expected to be Chivas' backline leader, but he played in just two games before going down, and the Goats (3-4-4) have had to make myriad adjustments on their backline. Outside back Heath Pearce has been very good since a switch to the middle, and midfielder Ben Zemanski has fared well in emergency work there. Andy Boyens and rookie Zarek Valentin have partnered Pearce, and Michael Umaņa is expected to get the call Wednesday night at Home Depot Center against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

"We've got two games this week, we've got the guys to do the job, and, obviously, we're missing some guys with [injury, suspension and international call-ups]," Conrad said. "But a lot of guys have been really itching to get on the field, and so this is their opportunity to step it up and do it.

"Maybe I can fit into the picture somewhere down the line. Obviously, I don't want to rush back too soon."

He still needs to pass a "heading test" in training -- Lahoud's relapse came after he headed away a sharp cross from New York's Rafa Marquez -- and needs to regain fitness and his touch. He has set no timeline for a return because he "did that before, and you just get your hopes up, and you feel like, 'Oh, I'm not ready yet.' Whenever it happens, I'll be ready. There's a lot of season left."

Conrad just two weeks ago said he was continuing to struggle with concussion symptoms, and he said Tuesday that "maybe there was some stress there from the baby coming."

"Sometimes it's hard to differentiate between stress and the [concussion] pressure and what headaches are being generated from, and this is the longest I've ever sat out for an injury," he said.

He also has had time to ponder the end of his career.

"Of course, that goes through your head," he said. "I've been playing a long time, so it would be foolish for me not to consider what it would taste like and be like. This is all I've known. I've been a racehorse for 13 years, so just to shut that off makes it difficult. It's a conversation I have with my wife, and we sit down and try to make decisions based on how I'm feeling, and we go from there.

"I feel good today, and hopefully that remains for the rest of my life."