The MLS SuperDraft will conclude today, with rounds 3 and 4 finishing up via conference call at 2pm CT. Dallas picked up three players last week in the first two rounds, getting centerback Nkosi Burgess, forward Cal Jennings and midfielder Manuel Ferriol and immediately the thought process is, “How will these players fit?”
In the past, it was a more “sink or swim” type scenario as the draftees either had to make the team or ride out their luck being loaned out. Loanees have not had a good history (or any at all) in terms of making it back to the first team, leaving very little option for making the jump from college to the top league in the soccer pyramid in Northern America.
The shouts for FC Dallas to start an “FCD2” team in the USL ranks were loudest when the Academy was up and running at full speed but the first team didn’t have enough roster spots to plunk them down and let the graduates mature and find their feet. The introduction of North Texas Soccer Club last year was already heralded as a big success, as it provided a pathway for the likes of Ricardo Pepi, Thomas Roberts and Bryan Reynolds to move between MLS and USL 1. It also provided a better environment for players like Ronaldo Damus, Arturo Rodriguez and Dante Sealy to push themselves against professionals.
The question that remains though, is what does this mean for SuperDraft picks like last year’s Callum Montgomery and John Nelson? Nelson split time between NTSC and FC Dallas, while Montgomery got all his playing minutes with North Texas.
Academy graduates have appeared to find a natural way to get themselves noticed by Luchi Gonzalez and his coaching staff to get to play for Dallas, or at least make it to the bench for some games. A lot of that makes sense as most of them had been playing in front of Gonzalez for quite some time already, and he’s already familiar with them.
My attention will then fall on how does Montgomery perform this year? Does he make the leap? Obviously there was no way he was going to be able to challenge for minutes against Reto Ziegler and Matt Hedges, but can he make the case to be in the 18 this year?
I expect Burgess, Jennings, Ferriol and whoever Dallas ends up picking later this afternoon to start at NTSC - at the time of this writing, they only have 8 players on their roster. Montgomery made 22 appearances in 2019, amassing 1958 minutes, scoring 3 goals and winning 105 aerial duels (second highest on the team). Now the question is, can NTSC turn and develop college draft picks into the type of player Dallas wants and needs at the senior level?