Paul Bin knew something was wrong immediately.
He’d heard it.
The Maryland winger was playing in a routine scrimmage at the end of the first practice of 2019’s preseason. He passed the ball back to his teammate and landed wrong on his left foot. One cataclysmic crack from his knee, and he was out for the season with a torn ACL.
It was the first of three injuries that would rattle the Terps’ title defense, stripping them of their best attacking options.
Attacking midfielder Brayan Padilla heard a similar noise about a month later. He cut onto his left foot during warmups. With a loud pop, his season was over.
William James Herve’s situation was different. A series of injuries — requiring two knee surgeries and a lengthy absence to recover from a torn hamstring — made his season go awry.
But as the Terps toiled through their 2019 season, something else happened. The three talismans became closer, helping each other through the physical and mental battles that come with serious injuries.
Now, they’re back on the training pitch together.
“We’ve communicated a lot, and we’ve helped each other a lot for sure,” Padilla said. “We have such a strong bond.”
That bond started on Oct. 2, 2019. Padilla was going through standard warmups ahead of a crucial Big Ten matchup against Rutgers. He was looking to continue the run of form that landed him a starting spot in Maryland’s lineup.
During warmups, Padilla cut hard to his left. But while pivoting, his left foot remained locked in the turf. The force of his change in direction was too much, and his knee cracked.
Padilla was shocked.
“My eyes were just looking forward. I wasn’t really looking at anything, I couldn’t really focus on anything,” Padilla said. “I just couldn’t believe what just had happened.”
Padilla doesn’t remember too many specifics of the game. But one memory sticks out. Herve, already sidelined with his own nagging injuries, wore Padilla’s jersey for the rest of the game once he found out.
Bin was only a week removed from surgery when athletic trainer Ryan Morrison texted him the news. Still in the early stages of his own recovery, he was well aware of how devastating such an injury could be.
“It means a lot to know that they were there for me, just the same way I would be there for them,” Padilla said.
Bin quickly responded with messages of comfort and support. And so a recovery process began for the two of them, united in similar injuries.
Bin and Padilla focused on the positive side of things, well aware of the mutual frustration brought about by painful exercises that led to minimal steps toward recovery.
“It brought a lot of laughs, a lot of jokes in a time of darkness for us,” Bin said. “Especially for Brayan and Will. They brought a lot of light, a lot of laughter.”
Padilla had been out long-term before, though. A foot injury derailed most of his freshman season. So too had Bin, albeit for different reasons. In 2016, he stepped away from the program for a year, returning to his native Korea to work on his mental health.
For Herve, the process was new.
The Frenchman suffered a slight tear in his meniscus during Maryland’s College Cup run in 2018. After a four-month rehab from that surgery, he returned to the pitch for the Terps’ spring season — but a knock on his ankle sidelined him until the summer.
He returned to College Park as a rejuvenated figure in August 2019, hoping for a big year after spending the summer training with the New York Red Bulls.
“I had never felt that fit in my life,” Herve said.
But, 10 minutes into Maryland’s 2019 season, Herve pulled up while carrying the ball on a counterattack. He fell to the turf, clutching his torn left hamstring in agony.
A season defined by a series of injury struggles followed. Though he recovered from the hamstring tear ahead of schedule, the knee pain returned. And as the Terps yearned for a creative spark in their 3-0 loss to Wake Forest in the NCAA tournament, Herve was forced to watch from the bench.
In January, a second MRI revealed another meniscus tear and damage to knee cartilage — which required another surgery. This time, though, Herve was sidelined with Padilla, his roommate and best friend. And when the COVID-19 pandemic sent Maryland into lockdown, it was just Padilla and Herve in College Park, rehabbing every day — albeit with some major limitations.
“You had kids who were coming from major injuries that weren’t allowed to see our athletic trainers, and that was a really devastating blow,” coach Sasho Cirovski said. “We made up some ground because they were able to see a physical therapist off-campus.”
Herve decided to return to France in late spring, spending time at home to recover, with an eye to rehabbing in College Park by the summer. But travel bans prohibited Herve from re-entering the U.S.
Amidst lockdown, with no doctors available and no teammates around for inspiration, Herve started to struggle mentally.
“I remember just going back to France and … I just felt lost. I felt like I lost my identity,” Herve said.
It was in those summer months where companionship with Bin became most valuable for Herve. Herve reached out to Bin, knowing he had experience with depression.
“I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to talk to a psychologist, I want to talk to someone I was actually close to,’” Herve said. “So I remember sending a message to Paul.”
The two talked about Herve’s struggles, mental and physical, each aware of the difficulties brought on by long-term injuries. Padilla helped in a similar capacity, having long conversations about the process.
Now, all three are back in College Park. And they’re closer than they have ever been.
Bin has been fully participating in practice this fall, hoping to return to the level of play that made him one of the nation’s most dynamic wingers in 2018. Padilla is a year removed from his knee surgery, with a green light imminent. And Herve isn’t far behind.
Of all the memories, struggles, and laughs during their rehabilitation process, one stands out. When Bin tore his ACL, he gifted his locker to Padilla, in a gesture he hoped to be a symbol of Padilla taking his role on the team. Weeks after, Padilla sustained the same injury.
“We joked around a little bit saying that that locker was kind of cursed,” Bin said.
But ahead of a spring 2021 season rife with opportunity, and buoyed by a full-strength Terps squad, Bin isn’t superstitious. In fact, after spending a year away from the game, rehabbing with his best friends, he’s ready to pick up right where he started.
“I’m still in that locker, so hopefully I don’t tear my other one,” Bin said.