FRISCO, Texas – When Hendry Thomas was sent off for an ill-fated two-footed tackle late in FC Dallas’ 3-1 victory over Chivas USA last weekend, things went from bad to worse for the team’s central midfield situation.
After already losing midfielders Andrew Jacobson and Adam Moffat to injury during the match, Thomas’ ejection will force head coach Oscar Pareja to shuffle his lineup for Saturday’s game against Portland (8:30 pm ET, MLS Live).
For Pareja though, the sudden dearth of healthy or eligible central players is not necessarily a negative.
“It’s a beautiful opportunity for the youngsters and the guys who have been waiting for some playing time,” Pareja told reporters on Thursday after a rainy training session. “I don’t have any doubt that challenges like this will make our unit stronger.”
One of those younger players that could take advantage of the sudden opportunity to play is 22-year-old Homegrown midfielder Victor Ulloa. The suburban Dallas native (above) has logged 173 out of 180 minutes so far for FCD’s reserves this season, and could be in line to make his second career first-team appearance.
“I think it’s good for me that I play center mid, so I think I’ll get that opportunity,” Ulloa told MLSsoccer.com.
A likely option in the middle is Michel, who entered the game against Chivas as a substitute and scored a goal. Additionally, Je-Vaughn Watson (who has played defensive midfielder for the Jamaican national team) and Peter Luccin (who is battling an injury but is racing to get fit) could also figure in the mix to occupy the open positions.
Although Pareja didn’t say who would line up in central midfield to face off against a struggling Portland side, he remains confident in his team’s ability to maintain its undefeated start.
“We’ve seen some options, but I’m not worried about it,” Pareja said. “We have a few.”
For his part, Ulloa said he would use what he’s learned from the team’s veteran players to keep things moving forward if called upon.
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And beyond the lineup concerns for the Timbers match, Pareja said it would not be long that the team would be without Jacobson and Moffat.
“Andrew has an ankle sprain, which looks very severe, but is not as [previously feared],” Pareja said. “We will have him sooner than we thought.”
Pareja also said Moffat would return sooner rather than later from a lower hamstring pull, and could return to light training as soon as next week.