Continuing the team’s trend of holding on to key players, FC Dallas signed center back Ugo Ihemelu to a contract extension through 2015, the team announced Thursday morning.
Per team and league policy, the terms of the contract were not released.
“It’s nice to know to that the club believes in me and they want me to be around, so it’s really an honor,” Ihemelu told MLSsoccer.com. “I grew up watching this team play, and now to be back here playing for the club, it’s really awesome.”
Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman — Ihemelu’s coach while at SMU — said that plans to keep Ihemelu for the near future had been in the works for some time.
“This is something that we wanted to do: firm up our roster for the future,” Hyndman said. “Ugo’s contract is coming to an end, and so he was one of our early priorities to re-sign — as Brek Shea was. We are really happy to get that behind us and to sign Ugo until 2015.”
Ihemelu commands an Dallas back line that has eight shutouts on the year — the best in MLS. A resident of nearby Cedar Hill, Texas, Ihemelu brings a number of characteristics to the team, according to his longtime coach.
“He’s a very composed defender, hard to beat one vs. one, strong tackler of the ball, strong in the air, good athletic ability,” Hyndman said. “He’s able to run with the best and quickest forward in the league, good distribution, and a very, very strong player as far as communication and team chemistry.”
Hyndman and Ihemelu’s relationship extends back to their time together at SMU when the team reached the NCAA Championships.
“I’ve been coaching him since he’s been 18,” Hyndman said. “He a player that has grown with me, taken the team to the NCAA Championships, and I’ve seen him also grow in the league where he won an MLS Cup with the Galaxy, so it’s a lot easier to work with him.”
For Ihemelu it’s an opportunity to continue playing in front of family and friends. The 28-year-old said his four brothers and sisters attend games as often as they can.
The re-signing of Ihemelu marks the second time in two months that a Texas native has received a contract extension. Shea signed his own through 2014 in early May.
“I think we are one of the richest areas in the country as far as player development, and that always goes back to the youth coaches that have embraced the sport,” Hyndman said.
After the team’s success in 2010 and a 9-4-4 record midway through the 2011 season, signing an extension with the club was an easy one to make.
“You can see with the club really investing in the academy that they’re building for the future," Ihemelu said, "and what we’ve done over the last few years — how the team has been performing — they want to keep improving. It’s where I want to be. I want to be apart of that growth and to see FC Dallas become the best club in the history of the MLS.”