RICHLAND -- Michael Klein eagerly awaited an important telephone call Thursday afternoon at Bomber Soccer Field in Richland.
The call would reveal the results of an MRI on Klein's hyperextended left knee after what he called a freak accident Wednesday. The senior central defender's cleat got caught in the grass in the final few minutes of practice as he followed through on a slide tackle.
Though Klein doesn't expect the injury to keep him from playing against Chiawana at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bomber Soccer Field, he still hadn't heard from his doctor by late Thursday evening.
Alas, the waiting continues.
Frankly, Klein has done more than enough waiting since his sophomore season. Injuries have cut a good chunk out of his varsity career, forcing him to miss more than three-quarters of the Bombers' last two seasons.
"I wouldn't say I'm injury prone, but when I get hurt, it's usually something that keeps me out awhile," Klein said.
As a sophomore, Klein fought through Osgood-Schlatter's disease, a painful swelling of the upper shin just below the patella tendon that limited him to a handful of games. Last season, a strained hip flexor kept him out most of the year. When he did come back, a hamstring pull kept him on the bench to close out the season.
He must wonder sometimes whether he has been cursed.
"All the time," Klein said.
In truth, Klein considers himself pretty lucky this year. Klein was a starting defender for the Three Rivers U-18 Celtic squad that won the U.S. Youth Soccer Washington State Championships -- better known as the State Cup -- in February.
"That was one of the nicest feelings out there," Klein said. "Our next step is regionals in June."
And for the first time since 2003, the Richland boys are in first place past the midway point of the regular season.
"It's no fun watching him sit out. The defense seems a little slower and not as focused without him in there," said Bombers goalkeeper Nash Yamauchi, a three-year starter who has three shutouts this season and a 0.75 goals against average. "Fortunately, he's been healthy this year."
Richland coach Octavio DoValle said Klein never has moped on the bench about missing time. Instead, he has been a model of leadership. And DoValle claims that when the Bombers' captain does play, the team wins.
"He does what he has to do, and the others follow him," said DoValle, a former defender in his college days at San Francisco State. "You think of defenders as somebody big, but Michael will take the ball away from you like a big league defender. He will pick your pocket and start looking for what to do next. That's why he has three assists."
It's also a big reason Richland is 6-1, has outscored opponents 19-6 and is riding a three-game winning streak.
This is the first season DoValle has had Klein playing in central defense. Klein burst onto the scene as a freshman starter in central midfield. But lately, he's enjoying the challenge of stopping opposing forwards.
"It's satisfying to make a good tackle," Klein said. "But the best feeling is not getting scored on and doing our job."
* Jack Millikin; 509-582-1406; email@example.com