The team doctors said it would take 12 to 16 months for Blast midfielder David Vaudreuil to recover from reconstructive surgery to his left knee.
Eight months later, Vaudreuil is making a standout impression in the Blast preseason, and he isn't even wearing a knee brace.
"David is a pretty courageous young man," said Blast coach Kenny Cooper. "Every time I saw him last summer he only had one thing to say, 'I'll be ready, you can count on me.' To me he looks just as quick as before the injury and he might even be a little sharper."
Vaudreuil, 5 feet 7, 158 pounds, played only six games as a rookie last season before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in late January. During his brief playing time, Vaudreuil impressed the Blast as someone who initiated action instead of reacting to it.
"That's one thing that hasn't changed," said Vaudreuil. "I've always relied on my ability to anticipate play. My knee has nothing to do with that. My knee isn't an excuse for anything. I'm ready to play."
He demonstrated that during the preseason games in New England on Sunday and Monday. Playing on a line with Bruce Savage, Joe Barger, Guy Furfaro and Rusty Troy, Vaudreuil set up scoring chances with some dazzling passes, hustled on defense and never seemed to hesitate out of concern for his knee.
"The hardest thing about the injury was all the game experience I missed," Vaudreuil said. "But if this injury had happened with some other club, it might have been different; I might have been left out there on my own. But the Blast was with me every step of the way. Ed Hale, the coaches, the players. At one point or another, every one of them has helped me to come back."
Cooper said the Blast has learned more about Vaudreuil during his rehabilitation.
"You often find out a lot about the character of a player when he has been seriously injured," said Cooper. "He can go one of two ways. David got tougher. We've seen guys go the other way: Because rehab is so hard, guys feel sorry for themselves."
Vaudreuil, 23, showed a similar determination in the classroom. He has a degree in East Asian History from Princeton and plans a future career in international relations.
He had something to fall back on if he didn't make it back in soccer, but that wasn't his thinking.
"I made a commitment to play soccer at the highest professional level, to be as good at it as I can possibly be," he said. "I've no intention of quitting until I get to the end of the line -- and I'm not there yet.
"I have the diploma. It's not going anywhere. With the Blast, I'm with the best organization in the sport and day in and day out, I'm learning more and becoming better and better."
The midfielder will need to keep improving to make the team.
"I expect to do that," Vaudreuil said. "I'm not a rookie anymore. I plan to play like a second-year player, make an impact and not be the last player kept on the 18-man roster. My goal is to play good enough to be in the middle of the pack, not near the margins."
The Blast is still struggling to meet the salary cap of $630,000, even after cutting veteran Freddie Thompson. When Domenic Mobilio and Dale Mitchell arrive in camp later this week, there will be 20 players competing for the 18 spots.
Rookies Dominic Feltham and Chris Haywood continue to improve, and Chris Simon was outstanding in his two-goal performance in New England.
Another veteran probably will be cut before this weekend's preseason games against Cleveland in Charlotte and Greensboro. That will leave the coaching staff with one more cut to make before the final roster is set.