FRISCO, Texas — Joining FC Dallas on loan from the NASL’s Minnesota Stars during the summer transfer window, center back Jack Stewart was called upon to provide depth to the backline.
And in his first start – an emergency appearance after Andrew Jacobson had an allergic reaction to peanuts in Toronto – the 6-foot-2 defender scored the game’s only goal off a corner kick in an important 1-0 CONCACAF Champions League win.
But aside from the timeliness of his game-winning goal in August, Stewart’s journey to present day is even more impressive.
In 2009, during a stint with Carolina RailHawks, Stewart – who had just returned from unsuccessful times with two Norwegian clubs – dislocated his ankle and snapped his fibula due to faulty field conditions at the old home of the Miami Fusion.
The resulting recovery took several inopportune turns for the Los Angeles-area native.
“It was supposed to be a six-month recovery with surgery, and it ended up being I had to get three surgeries,” he said. “A microfracture put me out another six months of nothing, and it just became a depressing time.”
Struggling to return to the pitch, the club stopped paying Stewart and there was no claim for insurance in a time that he described as a “personal battle.”
Fast-forward two years to 2011 and Stewart made immediate contributions to the Stars earlier in the season, putting him on FCD’s radar and eventually giving him the chance to return to MLS six years after the Chicago Fire drafted him No. 10 overall in the 2005 SuperDraft.
With the toughest of times behind him, Stewart – who admitted that the technical ability of players was much higher in MLS as well as the speed of play – has relished being back in the premier soccer league in North America.
“It’s good just to be back playing in the top league in the US,” he said. “It’s definitely grown from when I was last here. The players are a lot better and the competition is getting more skill full and more athletic and it’s becoming just a better league than what it was. It’s good to see.”
Stewart has fit in well with FC Dallas, and head coach Schellas Hyndman said they’ve been happy with his performance thus far.
“What he’s done is brought some depth to our team and brings good size,” he said. “He’s a player that we continue to work with because we – even though he’s helping us right now in that depth position – we’re really having a wonderful opportunity to evaluate him for next year.”
Stewart is highly favorable to a permanent move to FC Dallas and is doing everything he can to convince the coaching staff to keep him.
“I think that I deserve to be here and I deserve to get a look in the preseason again but I think all the feedback from him as been very positive,” Stewart said. “It’s just more of a fitness issue. Shedding some weight still from the injury that kept me out for two years so all of the things I can control, I can control.”
Robert Casner covers FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com.