FCD's Ihemelu returns after two-month layoff

Dallas center back aims for full fitness by start of postseason

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FRISCO, Texas — It had been almost two months since Ugo Ihemelu was last on the field with his teammates, but the central defender finally returned to practice on Wednesday.

“It was fun," Ihemelu said. "First time in two months I got to actually play with the team and kick the ball around."

On Aug. 8 at Pizza Hut Park, the FC Dallas defender had to leave the first half of a 3-1 win over Philadelphia after suffering a concussion following a collision with the Union’s Kyle Nakazawa.

Ihemelu returned to practice with instructions from the FCD team doctor not to head a ball unless it was absolutely necessary. As to when he should be able to resume heading balls with authority, he was mum on the subject.

“They told me to go along and avoid it if I can,” Ihemelu said. “The doctor said it is part of the game, so if I have to, I should.”

He won’t make his return this weekend when Colorado visit, but if he could have his way, he would like to play against the Rapids.

“I would have loved to have been back by this game on Saturday because it’s Colorado,” Ihemelu said. “I have some old friends on that team and scored against them last year … but I don't know.

"After the training today, I can tell I’m still slow and I still need to work my fitness up. It’s an important part of the season right now, so they can’t just throw me in. We’re trying to win the Supporters’ Shield, so [head coach Schellas Hyndman] wants to get me integrated with the team and get me going again before just throwing me out there.”

But he won’t rule out being ready to play a week from Saturday when FCD visit Rio Tinto Stadium to face defending MLS Cup champion Real Salt Lake. Ihemelu could come off the bench against RSL if things go well between now and then.

In a perfect world, he would like to have at least one start under his belt before getting into the postseason.

“I’m sure I’ll get to do some scrimmages with the guys because we always do that," Ihemelu said. "It will be important to get in and play some with the guys to get back to the speed of everything. But if that doesn’t happen, I’ve played in the league for a while. As long as I get good enough and sharp enough in practice, I’m sure if I get in the game, I’ll be ready to go.”