Top Five Pre-Season Roster Battles: #2 Starting Center Back

HOUSTON - MAY 05: Zach Loyd #19 of FC Dallas is harassed by Mike Chabala #17 of the Houston Dynamo at Robertson Stadium on May 5, 2010 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

We talked about one of the roster battles being who makes the last center back spot, but much more important is who starts next to Ugo Ihemelu on opening day against New York. The first thing I want to say on this is it's all contingent on George John not returning to FCD. If John returns, I think he starts the first game, especially considering he will be game fit from his time at West Ham, but if the Hammers choose to purchase his rights then Schellas Hyndman is left with a big decision.

There's really three options for Hyndman at starting center back if George John is not available so let's take a look at all three.

Matt Hedges

Schellas had very complementary things to say about Hedges after Saturday's friendly and the UNC center back has certainly been a standout of the first two weeks. There's plenty to like about the guy, good size, and good distribution out of the back, but I'm going to wait to see how he looks in practice against guys like Blas Perez and Brek Shea before drawing any conclusions. There's also the little detail of Ugo Ihemelu's niggling injuries that have kept him out of pre-season training and a chance to gel with Hedges.

The Tar Heel projects as the long term starting center back on FC Dallas unless Hernan Pertuz impresses more than some think he might. The problem is, will he be ready on opening day. The friendly tournament in Orlando should go a long way in deciding Hedges opening day fate in Frisco.

Keep reading for the other two options

Hernan Pertuz

Hernan Pertuz is the great unknown of the three candidates. At 22 years old, Pertuz has multiple years of experience starting for Independiente Medellin as well as the U20 South American championships, but the truth is no one really knows what he's going to bring to the table yet. Schellas Hyndman has to be frustrated at the visa complications that denied him a chance to join the team for the first two weeks of training, and while he should arrive soon, no date is locked down.

Pertuz could end up being the starter on opening day if he shows decently in pre-season and Hedges takes some time to adjust to the speed of the league. The Colombian would do himself a lot of favors in the Schellas Hyndman ledger by coming in ready to go from day one.

Zach Loyd

In the disappointing scenario that neither Hedges nor Pertuz prove they can be ready to go on opening day, Zach Loyd could very possibly slot next to Ihemelu against New York. There is a measure of familiarity there as Loyd has come into the middle before and Dallas would likely rather throw out a guy like Carlos Rodriguez at right back than put a question mark in at center back.

While this would be a purely stopgap measure, if George John does indeed stay in England, Loyd is the most likely option at this point to start at center back on opening day. It's up to Hedges or Pertuz to prove they can handle the pressure.

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