sports 2 days ago

Crew Cuts: Gaston Sauro sets goals for 2018

The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio — Andrew Erickson The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

Jan. 13--After missing out on a full 34-game season plus a five-game playoff run, a player's goals upon returning to full health can be quite simple.

"My goals for this year will be to play as much as I can and help the team and I hope I will be healthy and I can help the team," Gaston Sauro said via phone Thursday. "I think this year would be nice if I am healthy because I want to play. I missed playing all of last year and I wish I can play as much as possible this year."

Sauro has re-signed with Crew SC, the club announced Thursday, and took a pay cut to do so. As Crew coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter described it, Sauro understood the situation, that proving himself and returning to the field was the most important step for him, and for a Crew SC team looking for more depth and consistency on defense, in 2018.

So, in the days after the Crew announced it had declined Sauro's 2018 option in December -- a move that wasn't unexpected given Sauro's $600,000-plus salary during a 2017 season spent recovery from knee surgeries -- he focused on recovery, knowing he would return to the Crew at a reduced rate.

"I think I was in a spot that I just can think about being healthy again. I never thought about changing clubs or going to another place," Sauro said. "I think now I'm healthy and I'm well. I have to continue growing my confidence and I'm happy to be in a club that everybody knows me, I know the city, I love the city. I wish to have a great year."

Last season, Sauro admitted, was difficult. He started 2017 waiting for a tissue donation, a process that start-to-finish took five months. He had a separate surgery last spring to clean out an infection in his left knee. He slowly progressed to an anti-gravity treadmill, followed by walking then running on solid ground.

As of Friday, he said he had completed four full training sessions with some of his Crew teammates and reported feeling better after the last two than the first two. Sauro said he's still working on trusting his knee, on cutting, accelerating and decelerating with confidence. He believes those finer movements will come in time.

What has been constant is a positive attitude that has kept him going over the last 20 months as he dealt with a torn PCL followed by a chondral defect -- cartilage damage -- and the lengthy wait for a donor match.

"I'm very happy because it was a really hard year last year with the surgery, then with infection and it was a long year," Sauro said. "Now I'm in a good spot and I'm training with the guys and I'm feeling well every day. I'm very happy where I am now."

Sauro said his body "feels it now" as he works his way back into playing shape.

Asked if the new pain beats the mental and physical pain endured since spring 2016, he chuckled: "Yeah."

aerickson@dispatch.com

@AEricksonCD

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