FRISCO, Texas -- In many ways, last night's game must have felt like another debut for London Woodberry.
Yes, the rookie defender has played in two other matches for FC Dallas, but both were under very different circumstances. Woodberry's first two appearances came as halftime substitutions into road matches in which FC Dallas led 2-0 at Toronto and Vancouver, respectively, stepping into the lion's den as the team took on heavy pressure from the home side in both matches.
Wednesday's home match against Portland was a much better opportunity for the Homegrown to show his chops and head coach Schellas Hyndman was happy with what he saw.
"I don’t know if it’s really fair to compare him from those games to this game because I think any rookie would have had trouble in those games with all those players and numbers coming forward," Hyndman said after the game Wednesday night. "But, I thought today he showed a lot of (good) qualities...He played against two very good strikers, very athletic players. I don’t know if they get much better in the league. So, this was a big night for him and I’m really happy for him."
With stiff competition coming from now-fit Stephen Keel and Walker Zimmerman, Woodberry has a fight on his hands to hold onto that number three center back spot, but he likely did himself no harm in Wednesday's draw.
"Today was a moment where I needed to step up because of injuries, and I thought I handled it well," said Woodberry. "You don’t like to give up goals, but I feel like I contributed and held my own."
Woodberry became the second Homegrown player in franchise history to go the full 90 minutes in a game for FCD, matching up against EPL veteran Frédéric Piquionne for much of the evening.
"It was difficult in the air with him, but I felt like on the ground we matched up well," said Woodberry. "Give him credit, he made great runs and obviously has a lot more experience at the professional level than I do, but I can always take it as a building block to get better."
Many times to get a truly accurate opinion of a defender's performance, you ask his partner at the back. In this case, it was Matt Hedges, another player who was forced into action early in his rookie season due to injuries.
"It’s never easy making your first start, especially against a team like Portland that has three guys coming at you up top," said Hedges. "I think [London] handled it well. Our communication was good right off the bat and I think it got stronger as the game went on."