What a downer training camp had been the past two weeks for Baltimore Blast defender Iain Fraser.
Until yesterday, Fraser couldn't do much of anything but sit around and wait for his lower-abdominal strain to get better. There were even times when the Blast doctors thought he may have an hernia or some other kind of internal damage.
"I was scared I had an hernia," said Fraser, who returned to full-scale practice yesterday. "And I know nothing is as bad as a hernia for a soccer player. We use that area of the body for almost everything we do in the game."
Late last week, Blast coach Kenny Cooper expressed doubt about Fraser being able to play in Saturday night's season opener at the Baltimore Arena against the Dallas Sidekicks.
Fraser wasn't getting better. And it was frustrating for Cooper and Fraser.
Fraser came to Baltimore from the Kansas City Comets with a reputation as a tough defender who would help turn the Blast defense around. Every time Cooper talked about a new push on defense this season, Fraser was one of the first names out of his mouth.
But no one had seen what Fraser could do. He came down with the injury the second day of workouts while stretching for a ball, ++ and tried to practice hurt for a week. Finally, he had to give the injury total rest.
"I kept waking up in the morning hurting too much," said Fraser. "It was one of those deals where I tried to practice when I felt a little better but it didn't work out."
Then came the results of a bone scan, showing that Fraser had nothing wrong other than the lower-abdominal strain.
The strain began to feel better, and now there is an excellent chance Fraser will start in the opener.
"After I got checked out, and nothing serious was wrong, my mind was cleared and that seemed to help my body get better," Fraser said.
On Monday, Fraser worked out, briefly.
Yesterday, it was time for Fraser to mix it up with the rest of the team. Fraser felt so frisky he even agreed to put on the gloves and play as a sixth attacker after practicing at his normal defender position.
A few minutes after putting on the gloves, Fraser stunned goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro with a bullet shot for a goal on the first shot he took yesterday.
"Lucky . . . lucky," said Vaccaro. Fraser only smiled.
"This was the happiest day since I've been here," said Fraser. "It's been so frustrating not to practice. And my wife [Denise] hasn't been here since training camp started. But she's coming Thursday [tomorrow]."
So life is all right again for Fraser.
When asked if he would be 100 percent by Saturday night, Fraser said, "Yes," without hesitation.
"You never play unless you're 100 percent," said the product of Hartwick College.
Cooper has said that Fraser could become another Bruce Savage -- the six-time MSL All-Star defender and former Blast standout -- as a player and a person. That's high praise for Fraser, who made his first MSL All-Star appearance last season.
Now, Fraser just hopes he is all the way back from the painful injury, and he doesn't wake up in the morning hurting again.
NOTES: D Doug Neely (inflamed left leg) and M Mark Mettrick (right hamstring strain) both missed practice yesterday. According to Blast trainer Marty McGinty, Neely and Mettrick are expected to miss today's intra-squad scrimmage at 11 a.m., but practice tomorrow and play Saturday night. . . . F Domenic Mobilio reported to Blast training camp last week after his season with the outdoor Vancouver 86ers ended. Mobilio has slowly regained his indoor touch and said he's looking forward to the opener.