Ihemelu, John both ready to return to pitch
FRISCO, Texas – It's been more than two months since Ugo Ihemelu and George John were on the field together for FC Dallas. On Tuesday, both of FCD's regular center backs participated in training together for the first time since their respective injury troubles.
Ihemelu has been out since August after suffering a concussion in a 3-1 win over Philadelphia at Pizza Hut Park. He did play the second half of a reserve match on Sunday against Colorado and said he's feeling good but still needs to work on getting sharper and reacclimating himself.
FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman was glad to see his veteran defender back on the pitch after missing the team's last 10 games.
“He’s a prime specimen of an athlete,” Hyndman said. “He’s athletic, quick, strong and powerful. The whole issue is just making sure he has the mental strength to go back. That’s why we have been very cautious on pushing him.”
John started last Saturday against Colorado after missing the previous five games with a strained left hamstring. However, he experienced some tightness just before halftime and was replaced to start the second half by Dax McCarty.
The second-year defender was back in practice on Tuesday and experiencing little issue from the weekend.
“It’s feeling good, making progress,” John said of his hamstring after Tuesday’s training. “It’s definitely been a lot longer process than I initially thought. I had a couple of setbacks but that’s kind of how life goes sometimes.”
Hyndman called pulling John off the field at the break more of a precautionary move. The second-year center back added that he’s ready for his first shot at the MLS playoffs.
“[I feel] pretty good, a bit rusty soccer-wise, but it will all come back,” John said.
Both defenders figure to travel to Real Salt Lake this weekend and either or both could also be in the first 11 against the defending MLS Cup champions on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Ihemelu knows he will first have to overcome some rustiness before he’s back to his old self.
“I’m definitely rusty attacking the ball in the air,” he said. “That’s going to take a while but I’ve got to get back in there at game speed against real opponents. I think Salt Lake and LA, you can’t ask for any better teams to challenge you to get you back to speed.”
And he no longer has any reservations about heading the ball.
“Even during the scrimmage, [the team doctor] said it was part of the game and if I had to do it, do it,” Ihemelu said. “He said don’t go out of my way. Now I’m clear to just do whatever. I’ll play and see what happens.”