As the season presses on for North Texas SC, a few standouts have started to garner recognition throughout the FC Dallas academy.
Going into week 7, the team sits second in the league and have missed out on some notoriety due to their next-man-up mentality.
Coach Pa-Modou Kah, who had an impressive season managing his new team said, “We don’t have a backup and we don’t have starters, we have a squad; Where anybody we put in is ready to go.”
This squad has faced a lot of moving parts through the first two months of the season. That said, a few players have made themselves impossible to bench and have cemented their position in the starting lineup.
Today, let’s look at a few of the guys who have been excelling with the team this season.
Starting from the back, we have Goalkeeper Antonio Carrera.
Carrera has still only allowed three goals in four games played and leads the league with an 83.3% save rate with at least four starts. He missed two games practicing with the USYNT (United Stated Youth National Team) and has since been called up to practice with FC Dallas.
With the success of Maarten Paes and an extended contract of backup Jimmy Maurer, Carrera will likely spend most of this season with North Texas.
That all could change depending on the contract of Paes, as his loan spell with Dallas is set to run out in June.
Although it’s his first season, the 23-year-old has had a lot of success with the first team. This leaves Dallas with a tough choice, as to whether they extend or sign Paes, at least until the season’s end, or begin to prepare Carrera for the final six games of the season they’ll be without Paes.
Carrera has otherwise proven his ability to the franchise and now it’s just about incorporating him at the right time.
There’s a chance if Carrera continues to play well he will get his big break this year. Paes currently occupies one of the team's international roster spots, so unless they're convinced he’s their goalkeeper of the future, they’ll look to use the spot on someone else.
Either way, goalkeeping shouldn’t be a concern for the franchise for a long time to come.
Moving forward up the wing is Hope Avayevu.
Born in Accra, Ghana, Hope came to the U.S. to compete in the Dallas Cup for Bechem United. After being recruited by FC Dallas, Hope has gone under most people’s radar, appearing in only six games in his 2021 campaign with North Texas.
A year later, he’s currently leading all of MLS NEXT Pro with five assists and has become one of the league's most decisive passers in the final third.
Furthermore, he’s one of if not the best dribbler on the team, and his quick turns and passes have continued to catch defenders off-guard.
This goal from last Sunday not only shows Hope’s ability in transition but his patience on the ball as he waits for Defender Jahon Rad to change direction before slipping the ball by him to Bernard Kumango.
Hope and Bernard have had a connection all season long as Hope has now assisted 3/4 of goals scored by Bernard.
Bernard Kumango is currently the third-highest goalscorer in the entire league and the heart of North Texas’s offensive system.
In an attack that capitalizes on and rewards forcing turnovers, these two attackers rank top-ten in defensive duels and have combined for 12 interceptions upfield.
Last season, Bernard paid $90 dollars for a tryout with North Texas to join the team as a walk-on signing after graduating high school.
A year later, he’s not only capitalized on Kah’s aggressive defensive style but has used his ability to run at defenders and move well off the ball to become the team’s savior in times of desperation.
If anyone new is going to be sent up to assist FC Dallas this season, do not be surprised if Bernard gets an opportunity to join the attack. He’s primed to be a late-game scoring specialist and super-sub for those games where Dallas’s attack can’t get anything going.
Two more guys deserving of recognition are Isaiah Parker and Lucas Bartlett.
Both of whom haven’t excelled with North Texas but are going through the molding process to become part of the Dallas rotation.
Bartlett will likely move around the roster frequently as he spends his season working in preparation to eventually take over for Matt Hedges.
Parker on the other hand is going through the process of a long-term transition from winger to left-back. Progress has been slow defensively, but he is a proven talent that Dallas wants on their first-team come next season.