On Tuesday morning, FC Dallas announced that it had signed midfielder Nicky Hernandez, upon whom it had used its first-round college draft pick, to a deal potentially as long as five years. Although the move may be innocuous in the long run for the first team considering how crowded FC Dallas is with midfield talent, it’s a huge, immediate quantum leap forward for North Texas SC. Here are two reasons why.
- When I spoke with Derek Waldeck a few weeks ago, he was clear that the pathway from NTSC to the first team was a key factor in convincing him to take a second team deal last year. While I don’t doubt his words, he was putting his faith in something that didn’t exist until Hernandez made the jump (despite the tremendous play of guys like A-Rod and Damus). Nicky’s the first player to come from outside the club, play for North Texas, and then sign with the first team. He’s also the second player to have signed a contract with NTSC before moving to the first team (and the oldest by six years). When recruiting new players, Quill, Denny & Co now have an example to point to. They’re already getting guys like Kazu, Alejandro, and Parra, but I think there’s a whole new level of player to reach.
- Hernandez’s signing is the fulfillment of the promise of NTSC/FC Dallas as the tip of the soccer pyramid in the metroplex. Nicky was a decorated captain for a prestigious local club, a standout for the best college team in the region, and a regular in the DFW semi-pro leagues. By virtue of how the numbers shake out, FCD’s Academy teams can only have 10-20 of the top male players in a given age group in North Texas – there’s no way they can monopolize the pro-level prospects in the area. Hopefully, Hernandez’s success opens up a new pipeline of local talent so that NTSC can draw on the whole metroplex, whether from other clubs (sort of like in the cases of Josh Ramsey and Riley O’Donnell) or local colleges (like trialist and UPSL standout Sebastian Mendez).
Nicky’s first-team contract checks a huge box for NTSC in its long-run goals. There are plenty of steps to go (eg: signing the first international NTSC player to a first-team contract), but the next one that’s at the very top of my wish list is a first-team contract for one of the players that signed with NTSC as they graduated the Academy.
For whatever reason, NTSC struggles more than its peers (Red Bulls 2, Union 2, Real Monarchs, etc.) to get Academy players on second team deals. If someone like Imanol Almaguer or Gibran Rayo (both heavily involved in the first-team preseason this year) were to make the leap, that could go a long way to convincing FC Dallas’ homegrown talent to stay inside the system.