FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas are taking a patient approach to center back Ugo Ihemelu, who has been out with a concussion since a 3-1 win over Philadelphia on Aug. 8.
The veteran center back hasn't returned to practice, but he has been in the FCD locker room. Earlier this week, he underwent some tests and head coach Schellas Hyndman discussed the results after practice on Friday.
“The first part of his test, he had a good sign of improvement, and the other part of his test, there was no sign of improvement," Hyndman said. "We’re going to give him a little bit more time, try to protect him and get him back when he feels that he’s at his best."
In Ihemelu’s absence, rookie Zach Loyd has started alongside George John in central defense. Loyd will start again on Saturday against Chivas USA.
In the first half of the match against Philadelphia, Ihemelu and Philadelphia’s Kyle Nakazawa collided in midair. Nakazawa returned several minutes later with his head wrapped, but Ihemelu was off the field a bit longer before finally leaving for good in the 20th minute. In the minutes following the collision, it was clear the FCD starter wasn’t too aware of his surroundings.
“We didn’t help ourselves putting him back in the game; we didn’t help him by putting him back in the game,” Hyndman admitted. “All you can do as a coach is ask a player how he is, and if he gives you the right answer, you put him right back in. I think the next head ball just put everything into a reality.”
Since the injury, the FCD manager credits the club’s training staff for handling this one the right way.
“[Trainer] Josh Watts has done a really good job as far as keeping on top of it,” Hyndman said. “It’s a priority for us, not only because he’s such an important player to us, but also … we want to do the right thing for our players.
"We’re going to take our time on this and do the right thing for Ugo. When he is capable of coming back, he’ll be at his best.”
Shea’s hamstring improving [inline_node:314565]
The big news after Thursday’s practice was that starting left midfielder Brek Shea, a big part of FCD’s success during their current 10-game unbeaten streak, was on the sidelines with a tight left hamstring.
The young Texan was back on the field for Friday’s session and looked to be favoring his left leg, but he had clearly improved from the day before. He should be in the first XI on Saturday evening.
Cunningham’s role doesn’t change
After Jeff Cunningham scored three goals off the bench in the last two games, some thought Hyndman might either shift into a 4-4-2 with Cunningham and Milton Rodriguez paired together up top, or even put the veteran scorer into the first XI, sending Rodriguez to the bench.
But although the FCD manager likes what he has gotten from Cunningham, he isn’t ready to make a change to his starting lineup.
“The conversation we continue to have is, 'Don’t tell me what you did [last year], tell me what you’re doing [this year],'” Hyndman said. “I give him credit for coming around.
"Sometimes you have to bring in other people to make it serious. I think Milton [Rodriguez] has come in and made it serious. Milton scored a great goal against Toronto. He’s giving some great balls. He holds the ball well and does a lot of things. The thing he can’t bring to us is just that exploding speed.”
Cunningham currently leads FCD with seven goals, three of which have come in their last two wins, including the game-winner in a 3-1 win over Philadelphia on Aug. 8, results which his coach clearly likes.
“When Jeff has come on the field, he’s been productive. This kind of reminds me of last year and kind of reminds me of the old Jeff,” Hyndman said. “But I’m also not willing to throw all my chips in on this one. As long as it’s working, let’s see how long it can work like this.”
Davies returns to training [inline_node:303825]
This has truly been a rough year for second-year defender Kyle Davies. He started the season opener on March 27 against Houston with Ihemelu out with an injury and played well, but in the second half he broke his arm in a collision with the Dynamo’s Dominic Oduro. He missed most of the next two months.
When reigning European Champions League winner Inter Milan visited in early August, it looked as though Davies would get some minutes against Italian giants. However, he injured his left hamstring earlier that week and has been on the shelf since.
On Friday he returned to training—a welcome sight for Hyndman, especially since Ihemelu is out and the stable of center backs is a bit depleted.
“[Davies is] capable of going 100 percent, and it helps us tremendously to have another player that we can count on," Hyndman said.