For years the narrative in the league was that Dallas had far and away the best academy. FCD was nestled in the hotbed of youth soccer that is North Texas, and not only did they have access to this talent, but they weren’t afraid to give them their shot. Now, the rest of the league has caught up. NY Red Bulls regularly rank first in minutes given to Homegrowns, Real Salt Lake boasts plenty of youth talent, and Sporting Kansas City have invested in their youth facilities and opened a state-of-the-art training facility. The homegrown gimmick isn’t enough to separate Dallas from the rest of the pack anymore. Dallas is not the only team that gives young players minutes and they aren’t the only team with good youth facilities. They must be incredibly careful that they do not take their access to youth talent for granted.
After the loss of Weston McKennie to Germany, and now Shaft Brewer to LAFC, the front office has to realize that the opportunity to potentially play for the first team isn’t enough to keep players around anymore. These guys want minutes and if Dallas isn’t their best route to finding them anymore, then they’ll go the USL route like Devin Vega, bounce to Europe (if they’re unsigned and 18), or go college on a scholarship. Reggie Cannon turned down a contract out of high school to attend UCLA for a semester, then returned to FCD when he felt he was ready. Cannon’s choice shows that players are priortizing their education and personal development rather than rushing to sign a professional contract. Dallas are still in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiating with youth talent, but improved choice for youth players is putting pressure on FCD to treat their homegrowns better, starting with Paxton Pomykal.
It’s obvious that Paxton wants to play for FC Dallas. He’s endeared himself to the fan base by wearing number 19 and he’s kept his head down and been patient since he was signed. The pre-season promised Paxton more playing time. Carter Baum assured us that he was Mauro Diaz’s back-up in the 10 role and he would also be worked in on the left wing. FCD said they would do whatever they could to get him playing time, and we, as well as Paxton believed it.
Last week Paxton did not put a foot wrong.
Crazy travel schedule has me a little behind on my Chalkboard piece. Catching up and sadly this won't make it into it, but how has no one talked about #PerfectPaxi yet? #FCDallas pic.twitter.com/yGQv8qrL0G— Jason Poon (@jasonhpoon) March 20, 2018
He received praise from around the league and left an impression on anyone that watched the game. But he was set to miss last week’s game against Portland with U20 national team duty. Instead of losing momentum with FC Dallas, either Paxton or FCD made the decision that he would not be attending the U20 camp.
Clavijo: "I’m excited for Paxton. Going to the U-20 camp was a very important opportunity for him. This means that Oscar plans to have him in the 18 for our game against Portland. Oscar feels more & more comfortable with him. It shows he has confidence in him to keep him here.”— Carter Baum (@CarterBaum) March 19, 2018
If it was Paxton’s decision, then he was misled about his involvement in the team and missed out on a chance with his national team because of it. If it was Dallas’ decision, they took the choice out of Paxton’s hands and made an ethical farce by not playing Paxton. Yes, the goal of FC Dallas is to win games, not develop young players, but because a player missed out on minutes to be in the 18 because there was an insinuation that he would play, then you are beyond strongly encouraged to play that player.
While Paxton did feature in the 18 for Dallas against Portland, he never came on. Pomykal sat on the bench while Dallas replaced both the number 10 and left winger.
So now, Dallas’ best youth prospect has missed out on participating with his national team, missed out on participating with his professional team, and according to Carter Baum, will be playing in Dallas Cup this week. He’s right back to where he started last year.
Don’t get me wrong, Dallas Cup is a prestigious competition, but Dallas has not handled this situation well.
The most heartbreaking thing about this is, if you watch this video from his Twitter Q&A earlier this week, he was fully expecting to play against Portland instead of in the Dallas Cup.
Situations like this will quickly diminish Dallas’ reputation for their treatment of homegrown players. Dallas aren’t the only show in town when it comes to youth players anymore, and they must be careful to respect the development of their kids.
EDIT: We have updated an incorrect line in this piece to reflect new information that has come to light to Big D Soccer about Cannon’s original offer from FC Dallas.