You will be hard pressed to find a weekend better than this one in the DFW area when it comes to finding high quality soccer matches to take in as a spectator removed from the couch. After some morning thunder storms, you’ll have the opportunity to go to Toyota Stadium to watch FC Dallas take on the hated (and I do mean hated since they knocked FCD out of the playoffs two out of the last four seasons) Portland Timbers. Then, if you’re feeling really crazy, you can stick around for North Texas SC’s second game and make it a doubleheader. Or you can just go out to see North Texas SC because you’re kind of curious to see this guy:
We’ll get back to this starlet in a bit, but we have to make mention of the other big features in the Metroplex soccer universe this weekend first. The free to attend and internationally prestigious Generation Adidas and Dallas Cups both start this weekend in Frisco, Dallas, and other ports of call in the metro, and these competitions invariably play a role in molding future players that ply their craft at NTXSC, FCD, other clubs in MLS, and leagues across the globe.
You have to start with the granddaddy, which is the 40th edition of the Dr Pepper Dallas Cup. The number of World Cup and Champions League champions who are alumni of this tournament is ridiculous. There’s 10 different groups spanning from U12 to U19, but we’ll stick to the Gordon Jago Super Group which kicks off on Sunday at the Cotton Bowl. FC Dallas’s U19 Academy team kicks off their journey for a 2nd SuperGroup championship against Spanish La Liga club Villarreal U19’s at 12:30 on Sunday.
Despite a number of age-eligible players establishing themselves with the first team or the reserves this season and being mostly unavailable, the U19s are still the top ranked team in the US Soccer Development Academy. Johan Gomez has scored 21 goals in 20 games for the U19s, and the team is still packed with players who regularly get youth national team call ups for the US and Mexico. Kevin Bonilla and Jorge Almaguer both got their pro debuts (as amateurs) with North Texas in their opener, and Dante Sealy and Beni Redzic have both played an age group up to keep the team competitive as FC Dallas signs players at younger ages to play for the two pro clubs. The U19s will be competitive at Dallas Cup.
The ‘other’ big tournament that starts this weekend (kicks off Saturday, schedule embedded here) is the Generation Adidas Cup. It’s ‘only’ been around since 2007, and it only recently expanded it’s international footprint in 2014 which dictated that MLS academies have a qualifying tournament to be placed in the Premier or Champions (top) tournament. It’s been held in Frisco since the 2014 expansion, and each of those years FC Dallas’s U17s have qualified for the Champions tournament. Although FCD’s U17s have beaten Real Madrid’s academy in 2017 and Monaco’s academy in 2018, they’ve yet to bring home the trophy at this prestigious tournament.
The U17s draw this past weekend dropped them all the way to three in the overall rankings for the US Soccer Development Academy standings. Ricardo Pepi started the year with this group, scoring 19 goals in eight games. Despite missing out on his services (and Redzic and Sealy’s, for that matter), the U17s have only lost once in 20 games and sport a goal differential of 52 so far this season. Also, they’ve been mostly without NTXSC signing David Rodriguez for the bulk of the season. He scored 10 goals in 13 games before he signed his first pro contract. Diego Letayf in central midfield at this age group is already a player that Mexico and the US are recruiting for his talents.
With the full blown 2nd team online, it’s impressive how much each team has accomplished to date. That said, all of the players on pro contracts are still eligible to play in these tournaments where age allows. FC Dallas has played similar players in these tournaments before, and there’s no doubt they’ll do so again this week. Buzz Carrick’s practice report for 3rd Degree already confirmed that Ricardo Pepi will join the U17s after the North Texas game on Saturday night, and there’s still six age-eligible players who could hypothetically play for the academy teams this weekend.
Jesus Ferreira is one of them, but his Dallas Cup days are over. He’s already got eight pro goals on the board, and he’s probably starting Saturday night. With Gruezo back in the mix, it’s hypothetically possible you could see Edwin Cerrillo with the Dallas Cup team next week if he gets unused, but his rise up the depth chart would seem to make that unlikely as well. Bryan Reynolds, Thomas Roberts, Dante Sealy, and David Rodriguez all seem likely candidates to be available for the youth tournaments this weekend, and I’d be surprised if they don’t pop up there in some capacity at some point this weekend.
David Rodriguez didn’t see the field for NTXSC in the inaugural, and he seems like a good bet to play with Pepi in the GA cup team for as many minutes as he can handle in the three games in two days that include matches against New York Red Bulls, West Ham, and Club America. Reynolds looks like a decent bet to get 90 minutes again for North Texas, and it’s hypothetically possible Roberts could see minutes for both FC Dallas and North Texas Saturday night (note: I don’t know if you could actually do that, but maybe...). I’d guess they’d both at least be available as subs for the U19s. Sealy is probably the most intriguing conundrum of the bunch.
This is a kid who turns 16 next week making his pro debut a week from last Saturday:
Let's start by looking at this dribble&cross from 15 year old Dante Sealy. Dude picks up the ball on the sideline, beats not just one, but 2 defenders to the byline and crosses directly in front of Pepi, who's shot goes straight into the ground and bounces out. #NTXSC #NTXvCHT pic.twitter.com/3J4Oqh5ayx— FCDallasGIFs (@MisterKranks) March 31, 2019
Sealy is already a handful against grown men, and even with Ronaldo ‘Nostra’ Damus as a capable fill in, he might not be available Saturday. Assuming he was, it’s kind of intriguing to think which tournament he would play in. Sealy would be one of the younger players on the U17 team if he played in the GA cup, but he played (almost?) exclusively with the U19s prior to signing his first pro deal (10 goals in 12 games). Adding a GA cup to the trophy case would be a nice feather in the club’s cap, and to continue stocking the pipeline, a win like that would only help with FCD’s recruitment efforts. However, given the established albeit fairly un-recent chemistry with the U19s and the development curve for the player, it’s fair to wonder if putting Sealy at the lower division wouldn’t be overkill.
It is an ideal problem to have for Coach Luchi, Quill, and the top bracket of the academy and one that will begin to unfold during a glorious weekend of soccer in Dallas-Fort Worth. Here’s hoping it’s nothing but wins, baby.