FRISCO, Texas — As halftime loomed in FC Dallas’ 2-0 victory over the LA Galaxy last week, the team was faced with a choice. Right back Reggie Cannon could not continue with an ankle injury. Head coach Luchi Gonzalez had to make a substitute.
At the time, Ryan Hollingshead was starting at left back. With Cannon’s injury, Hollingshead was asked to switch to right back and Marquinhos Pedroso entered at left back. It was nothing new for Hollingshead. Nicknamed ‘Captain Versatility’ on the team, his ability to play multiple roles has been a valuable asset for FC Dallas throughout the years, especially with the current injury situation.
“Being versatile is a talent,” head coach Luchi Gonzalez said. “That is a strength of his. It’s allowed him to have a career and be important to this roster and this club. He’s shown it already this season and I know he’s going to continue to show that.”
This season is the first in his career that Hollingshead has started the opening two league matches, including the 2015 season, where he made 33 MLS appearances for the team. It’s a different feel for the 27-year-old, who has been with FCD for six seasons after being drafted in the second round of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.
Hollingshead worked on his speed, his change of direction speed and his upper body strength during the offseason to make him a better defender. He said it’s paid off and he is a much harder defender to bypass compared to before.
“I feel really good,” Hollingshead told Pro Soccer USA. “I was able to focus on a lot of things preseason and even this offseason before, to strengthen my body, get ready, and work on things I needed to work on. I’m playing really well, I feel really confident and really good, so yeah, it’s been a really good start.”
When he switches mid-match, Hollingshead must communicate with his teammate on the new side of the field. While it takes a little time to acclimate to the player’s respective tendencies, training and spending every day with the players helps.
“It takes a little getting used but I really like using both of my feet,” Hollingshead said. “I feel really confident with my left and right foot, either side, it really doesn’t matter. More than the side that I’m on, it’s more the players I’m with on that side. Switching over from Santiago versus Mikey on the right side, they’re different sorts of players that like to do different things. Being behind them is different depending on which one is there. It’s learning that a little bit but we train with these guys every day so I know exactly what they wanna do. It just takes a couple of minutes before you get confident there.”
Hollingshead is known for his humanitarian side after an car struck him in 2017 and left him with broken vertebrae in his neck — but his ability on the field is often underrated. Hollingshead’s ability to play both fullback positions, winger, and even goalkeeper makes him a must-have option on the bench.
If Dallas is chasing a goal, the team can put on Hollingshead to try and provide a spark. If the team is trying to see out a game, the team can put on Hollingshead as a fullback to switch to a five-back line. If an injury happens – like it did Saturday – the team can use Hollingshead to play a role.
With injury concerns, national team competitions and the everyday grind of the MLS season, Hollingshead will be a key piece of FCD’s team, especially under Gonzalez.
“He likes to go forward and get involved and find space and occupy up the field,” Gonzalez said. “He’s mature and his time at the club and professionalism in terms of finding rhythm. When to go forward when to stay and possess and build with patience and keep the ball, when to take someone on, when to combine, when to cross. Those are things that he is maturing and is developing. He’s taken concepts very seriously and shown it every day in training. Off the field, he’s been a good human being and a good example for all of our players. He’s gonna be important.”