Ryan Hollingshead excited for first extended minutes, nearing return to top level

Hollingshead: "I feel like my game is getting stronger & stronger."

FRISCO - Slowly but surely, the rust is coming off Ryan Hollingshead.

Signed in late 2013 after taking a year off from the game, Hollingshead made his biggest contribution yet to FC Dallas playing 75 minutes in Tuesday’s penalty kick loss to Philadelphia in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinals.

“It was so good to get back out there. I feel like my game is getting stronger and stronger,” Hollingshead said after training on Friday. “The main step for me now is getting games like that because there’s only so much you can replicate in practice and it’s been a year and a half since I’ve played minutes like that…. I could feel at times where I was playing like I used to play and times where I felt like I was quick and could run at people.”

"Playing like he used to play" is something that bodes very well for FC Dallas and indeed, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Tuesday’s match was the most competitive minutes Hollingshead has seen in a match since late 2012 where he won PAC-12 Player of the Year at UCLA.

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“It’s huge and I think the tough part is the few subs I have made this year I come in with just a little bit of time and so you only have little snippets of time to try and impact the game and do something big,” said Hollingshead. “So you have to force the issue more and force things when they might not be on, but when you get [extended minutes] you can really let the game dictate itself and take open spaces when they’re there… It’s just a feeling of ‘let’s just play, be free and have some personality’.”

Previously this season, Hollingshead has made three appearances in MLS play, two of those with the clock in stoppage time. The 23-year-old played 18 minutes on May 31st against San Jose, his only extended run out.

While the winger was more known for his offensive game in college, he put in a workmanlike effort on Tuesday night that displayed the gritty part of his game. Hollingshead clearly improved as the match wore on, leading all players on Tuesday night in the OPTA stat of “tackles won” including winning five tackles in the 30-minute overtime period. One of the lasting memories from the match will be a hobbled Hollingshead, struggling with a leg cramp in the 120th minute, coming back on to the field and instantly winning the final Union attack of the match, kicking the ball away to safety.

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“I learned that he’s accountable,” head coach Oscar Pareja said of Hollingshead after Tuesday’s match, a statement that is seemingly high praise. “I learned that he’s ready to contribute more for this team and it’s great news for us.”

Up next for Hollingshead and FCD is a match on Saturday night in San Jose, one that will no-doubt be special for Ryan, a northern California kid. The Sacramento native said he has around 20 ticket requests for the match at Buck Shaw Stadium against the Earthquakes.

“I’m going to have a lot [of ticket requests],” said Hollingshead. “All my family is going to come. I’m going to try to keep it around 20. It’s going to be exciting to be in good old sunny California.”