An e-mail to friends in 2006:When I was in DC last fall, I recognized Alecko in the stands at an AU soccer game. I told him that I was a big fan visiting from SF and was at MLS Cup '04. I saw his goal live on TV this pastweekend and wanted to share this "brush with greatness".After 10 months of headaches, 'Esky' returns with aflourish for United By JOSEPH WHITE, AP Sports WriterApril 3, 2006WASHINGTON (AP) -- The headaches never seemed to stopfor D.C. United's Alecko Eskandarian. Loud noise and bright lights would set them off.Playing soccer -- especially heading the ball -- wasout of the question. Some 10 months after a collision with a goalkeepernearly wrecked his career, Eskandarian wore paddedblack headgear and returned with a flourish, scoring agoal within minutes of taking the field in United'sregular-season opener. "Ten months of frustration," Eskandarian said, "wasput behind that shot." Eskandarian entered early in the second half ofSunday's game against the New York Red Bulls andenergized a team that was trailing 2-0. His 6-yardleft-footed volley helped United rally to salvage a2-2 tie, and Eskandarian celebrated his goal as if hehad won another league title. "Esky, he did a good job of putting them on theirheels, and moving the ball quick and going after them,and being a handful," midfielder Ben Olsen said. "Itwas so nice, to come from a guy who's been out for along time and not sure if you're going to play again.He's dealt with a lot. To see him smile again afterseeing him score a goal is a special moment." Eskandarian, the No. 1 overall draft pick fromVirginia in 2003 and the MVP of the 2004 MLS Cup, wasinjured when his head was hit by Matt Reis' knee in agame against New England on June 18. Eskandarian leftwith a concussion, but he thought he would besidelined only a few weeks. Instead, the headaches kept coming. He couldn't doanything physical. Doctors did multiple tests andalways prescribed more or less the same thing:inactivity. Not easy for a 23-year-old rising soccerstar, but he had no choice. Returning too early from aconcussion can lead to long-term damage. He tookclasses at American University to pass the time. "Honestly, just waking up every morning with headachesis tough, to know that I can't play tonight or I can'trun tonight," Eskandarian said. "Once the headachesstarted going away a little bit, I knew I had achance." By the start of preseason practice in February,Eskandarian was ready to return. But he had one moresetback -- hernia surgery in early March. He recoveredahead of schedule, a nice change of pace after thelong road back from the concussion. Eskandarian said he wasn't tentative when the playbecame physical in Sunday's game. The extra protectionhe wore was barely noticeable. "The headgear thing's great. It's like a headband, soit's not heavy or anything like that at all,"Eskandarian said. "I was able to do everything fine." Including score a goal. "It was a storybook way to come back," he said. "Itwas a long time coming."
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