After months of rehab and perseverance, the Chicago Fire's Matt Polster and Diego Campos were rewarded for their patience during Sunday's match at Atlanta United FC. Each sidelined with knee injuries earlier in the season, their respective returns to the pitch were a positive takeaway from what became a 2-1 defeat at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
For Polster especially, his second-half substitution into the match was a meaningful one. The 17-minute shift was his first since starting and playing 89 minutes in the 2018 season opener against Sporting Kansas City back on March 10.
"Obviously, it felt pretty good to get back out there and finally get some game minutes. To finally get back from injury and be with these guys, and to have a run for two more games means a lot to me, to show myself, the team and the league that I’m fully healthy now.”
Campos made his return to the starting XI after suffering a left knee injury of his own in the first half of the Fire’s Aug. 5 meeting with Real Salt Lake, which forced his exit in the 30th minute. The 23-year-old put in a 73-minute shift before being substituted for by Polster, but -- while his return was welcome -- his focus remained elsewhere following the match.
"It is disappointing that we could not get the result,” he said. “We came here to win. We did our best and scored a very good goal. It feels good to be back with the boys. It feels good to put the jersey back on.”
Getting back on the pitch offered the pair an opportunity to regain some confidence prior to the season’s final match -- Sunday’s visit from D.C. United (3:30 p.m. CT, ESPN+).
“It’s just getting more game minutes,” Polster added. “Obviously I only got like 20 today, but for the most part I felt confident. I think game sharpness and game fitness will come as the games come along.”
With one match remaining in the 2018 season, both Polster and Campos will now look to end their respective campaigns on a positive note.
“For me it’s just to get out there again, run around with the guys and try to end on a high note -- which is get a win for our fans, for the team, for ourselves, to show that even though it’s been a rough year, we want to end on a high note,” Polster said.
"The game is home in front of our people,” Campos added. “We want to win."