With FC Dallas’ commitment to develop and sell homegrown players through its academy system, most recently leading to big sales for guys like Reggie Cannon and Bryan Reynolds, it was interesting to note that the starting lineup on Saturday for FC Dallas’ home opener against Colorado lacked a single homegrown player.
Paxton Pomykal and Ricardo Pepi, both homegrowns, came on as subs in the second half, but otherwise, the lineup featured veteran players like Jimmy Maurer, Ryan Hollingshead, Franco Jara, Matt Hedges, Andres Ricaurte, Bressan, and Bryan Acosta as well as a bevy of newcomers like Freddy Vargas, Jose Martinez, and Jader Obrian.
Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez during a media session chuckled when I asked him about the lack of homegrowns.
“Yeah, I knew this question was coming, and don’t think I wasn’t thinking about this all last week too,” Luchi said. “Look, I put a lineup that I believe that is going to do the best for the team in that moment.”
Of course, the potential was there for a stronger presence, if not starting but off the bench.
Luchi added, “There is a potential that if I used all five subs, there is a high potential that I could have five homegrowns on the field before the end of the game. So I want to make that note which is more than any team played in the first game of the season. There was that potential, but it didn’t happen.”
The absence of mainstays like Reggie Cannon and Bryan Reynolds who had both earned starting spots before transferring also reflects some of the factors that Luchi had to deal with as this roster comes together. It will take time to get the guys next in line ready.
“We’ve transferred some of our most talented, young homegrown players, and we still need to go through a process for our other ones to be ready,” Luchi offered. “They are getting closer that’s for sure, whether they came through college, like Eddie Munjoma, whether they are still coming through our academy system, like Dante has, or who had a nice breakout season like Tanner did last season or Paxton the year before.”
Even if the player is not a homegrown, the FC Dallas head coach made clear that every player has growing and development ahead of them.
“You know, I would say maybe it’s a little more veteran group, but we have our saying in the club build from within,” he said. “I’m not a homegrown. I didn’t play for FC Dallas. I came as a coach and I built from within here. Michael Barrios was developed here. Matt Hedges was developed here. I have the same vision for Jader Obrian, Freddy Vargas, or Andres Ricaurte. I want those guys to also build in and through our club and develop.”
Luchi seemed to ask for patience from the fanbase who want to see more guys like Tanner, Paxton, Ricardo, and others take their steps to get minutes and grow.
“I have a deep passion and pride for homegrown players coming from our academy. They are certainly important. We have very interesting ones coming through on our second team through our academy, and they are really important for us,” Luchi said. “Let’s take it one day at a time. I believe those guys are going to earn their opportunities and keep developing.”
But it’s clear that the homegrowns are not going to be handed anything. Their work is cut out for them as they face dynamic new faces in practice and have to show how they can be an asset to this club and the tactical plans of their head coach.
“If Bryan was here, he could be starting. If Justin Che was here, he could be competing to start as well. If Servania, they could be competing as well. I am really proud of our players coming through whether they started or not the other night,” Luchi said. “But we are going to provide an environment where they can earn opportunities. I want to see them grab them. This is not charity. They got to earn it.”
I don’t think Luchi gave us any hints on the call as to whether we might see homegrowns crack the starting lineup against San Jose on Saturday. He definitely saw positives in the home opening draw, even if a potential penalty kick was weirdly overlooked and some of the chances went begging, and this early in the season it makes sense to build some continuity to try to break through. Still, fans who are ready to see what Tanner can do, and eventually guys like Jesus, unfortunately out with an injury, may have to wait a little bit longer for those opportunities to come.
Later in the call, Luchi also talked about the extended opportunities that will come now that vaccines are rolling out, and the COVID-19 protocols are more flexible. Last season, for instance, he mentioned how the FC Dallas and North Texas Soccer Club were unable to scrimmage or practice together, and some players had to stick with one squad and not the other. There will be an increased opportunity for playing time for anyone to get fit and continue their development.
A Few Takeaways
- The subtext of Luchi Gonzalez’s answers today make it clear that Jesus Ferreira would have featured a role on Saturday if he had been healthy. Would he have started? Would his presence have shifted the lineup out of a 3-4-3 to something else to get Jesus on the field? Would he have been the first off the bench?
- Several questions focused on the potential for San Jose to give FC Dallas headaches, and Luchi was aware of the enormous challenge the team faces. He was also confident that FC Dallas would try to implement their ideas and not throw their hard work and tactical prep out the window.
- Paxton Pomykal is working his way back, still dealing with some scar tissue that is causing him some issues, but each day gets him closer to full practice and full fitness. He was excited to get on the field on Saturday and ready to serve whatever role the staff see him. It was a vote of confidence to see Luchi turn to him, replacing Andres Ricaurte to try to generate some energy in attack.
What did you hear in Luchi’s response? Share your thoughts below.