FRISCO, Texas – The exercise bike at the FC Dallas training pitch is beginning to get lonely.
With the return of forward Blas Pérez to training after an 11-week injury layoff, head coach Schellas Hyndman has nearly his full squad together and healthy with not one player seen rehabbing out at training on Wednesday for perhaps the first time this season.
“Isn’t that unbelievable?” Hyndman said after Wednesday’s practice. “We’ve had a lot of injuries this year that’s affected everything and it’s nice to see people aren’t fighting for the exercise bike or waiting in line.”
Getting David Ferreira back has proved to be the catalyst that turned things around, but the return of the Panamanian goalscorer Pérez could prove to be the player that puts Dallas over the top. Pérez was signed in the offseason to be FC Dallas’ prototypical No. 9-style forward in the offseason and he didn’t disappoint. While FCD struggled to cope without Ferreira, “Super Ratón” carried them through the first two months of the season scoring three goals and three assists in the first six games of the season.
WATCH: Pérez equalizes vs. RSL
But a foot injury he picked up in a World Cup qualifier while on international duty Panama, however, sidelined him for the past 12 games. Now, Pérez says he's nearly pain-free.
“My foot feels good [and] it’s good to get back out there and not have much pain,” he said through a translator. “It still bothers me a little bit, but I can have the ball at my feet and be comfortable with it. Now it’s just about getting back my physical fitness and match fitness.”
While forwards Scott Sealy, Jonathan Top and Ruben Luna have had no shortage of effort and relative success in their attempts to fit in, there really hasn’t been anyone who can truly bring what Pérez does to the forward position for FCD. His work rate and ability to finish the scraps in the box is about the only thing that’s been missing from a rejuvenated Dallas attack.
“He’s a proven scorer, extremely focused and hard-working,” Hyndman said about his returning star. “We’ve played with one striker and sometimes you look up there and think it’s two strikers because he’s covering so much ground.”
The biggest remaining question will be whether Pérez is available to start in FC Dallas’ potentially season-defining game at the LA Galaxy on Sunday evening (7 pm ET, NBCSN, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com). He’s likely to play some part in the match, but whether he starts or not will likely be determined by his performance in training the rest of the week.
“I don’t know,” a smiling Pérez said when asked about his status for this weekend. “I’ve only had two days back at training, [and] the team has been playing very well. They say that I’m the missing link, but it’s the coach’s decision so we’ll see what he says. “