Though Ugo Ihemelu missed training on Tuesday, the veteran center back is positive he’ll be in the first 11 when FC Dallas host the Los Angeles Galaxy on Thursday.
Ihemelu took several knocks in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Philadelphia, and he spent Tuesday's session on the sidelines with Dallas' head trainer, Josh Watts.
“Yeah, I got beat up a little bit [against Philadelphia]," he said on Tuesday. "I know I’m supposed to be beating people up, but I got beat up a little bit in that game. I definitely took it, but I feel pretty good.
"We had a long trip back with some flight delays and flight changes. That didn’t help with the recovery but today, I feel a lot better. I should be ready by Thursday.”
FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman, who also coached Ihemelu as a collegian at SMU, didn’t seem too concerned about Ihemelu's status for Thursday.
“He didn’t do anything yesterday and then today, he was a little bit more active,” Hyndman said. “Tomorrow, we’ll have a little bit more of a chance to see how he is. Right now, I know he wants to play. That’s a positive sign.”
Ihemelu called Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Union one of the more physical games he’s seen in some time.
And the knocks he took in the City of Brotherly Love weren’t helped by a trip home on Sunday that took over seven hours. At one point, FCD was rerouted to New York after issues with their flight.
“Everything [was bothering me], to be honest—from my back to my hip to my knee to my ankle,” Ihemelu said. “It’s all stuff that I’ve played with before, so I’ll be fine by Thursday.”
On the off chance that Ihemelu can’t play against LA, Hyndman has options—but the list of possibilities doesn’t include second-year defender Kyle Davies, who continues to recover from a broken arm suffered in the season opener against Houston on March 27.
“Today was really [Davies'] first day of getting knocked around and knocked on the ground, and he was OK," Hyndman said.
With Davies unavailable, that could mean rookie defender Edson Edward gets his first MLS start. Hyndman also said he could start Daniel Hernandez at center back, and play Dax McCarty or rookie Eric Alexander at defensive midfield.
"Right now, I’m trying to stay focused on if Ugo can go," Hyndman said.
Ihemelu will most likely play, which will give him a chance to face his old club LA, who drafted him in 2005.
“Yeah, I still enjoy [playing against them]," he said. "They’re probably the biggest team in the league, the most well-known team in MLS. I still have friends on the team. That always adds a little bit to it. I still hear it from fans for the Galaxy. They’ll always hold a spot in my heart. It’s going to be a fun game.”
And the fact that LA is the lone unbeaten side in MLS adds some additional spice to Thursday’s contest.
“You want to win every game but it would be nice to get that win," he said. "They’re undefeated with two ties. It would show that we’re a good team and make other teams fear us a little bit more, which is good. It’s more of a mental thing for us. If we beat them, it reiterates how good a team we are.”