Over the last two days, North Texas SC announced its second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth signings of the offseason, four of which bolster the defense. We are now, no doubt about it, into the 2020 season.
Who got signed this week?
Gibran Rayo (Attacker, 18): After appearing in a handful of games for NTSC in 2019, Rayo brings a huge amount of versatility to the club, combining a broad offensive skillset with a mind for the attacking third. After joining the FCD academy in 2017 and immediately playing up an age group with the U19s, Rayo has seemingly not progressed much in the time since. There have been good games and bad games, but, from a bird’s eye view, he has started in almost every FCD U19 DA game each season, scoring 0.36 goals per game in 17/18, 0.29 goals per game in 18/19, and 0.36 so far in 19/20. Goals aren’t everything, but I didn’t see him as a high potential player in his NTSC minutes last year. We’ll see if he can take the next step now that he’s a professional.
Alisson dos Santos Correa (CDM, 20): He looks and plays like a wrecking ball at the base of midfield. Combined with the signings of Edwin Cerrillo and Thiago Santos since Luchi took over, FC Dallas officially has a “type” at defensive midfielder. An accomplished youth player with Sao Paulo, Alisson won the Brazilian U23 championship in 2018, and, as best I can tell, he has basically no senior experience. I am personally rooting for him to just go by “Alisson”. For context around his age, he was born two weeks before Paxton Pomykal.
Pedro Conceição Alves (RB, 21): Alves is the definite mystery man of the group. He arrived at Paraguayan club Guarani last summer to strengthen the squad in anticipation of the fall season, but it’s not clear where he was prior. What little press coverage I’ve been able to find of him calls him a right-back (in-line with NTSC listing him as a defender) and refers to him as simply “Pedro Alves”; the nickname “Cuadrado” doesn’t come up in anything related to him except the North Texas release, so that a little strange. He’s right in-between Arturo Rodriguez and Carlos Avilez in age.
Philip Ponder (CB, 22): A center-fielder of a center-back, Ponder played as the middle of a back three for SMU, using his pace to snuff out fires where possible. He was a key player for the Cannon, Munjoma, et al academy teams of the middle of last decade that won two DA championships. Part and parcel with that is those teams didn’t ask much of their CBs by way of distribution, so that will be a point of improvement for him in the 2020 season. Ponder is a few months older than Callum Montgomery.
Juan Manuel Alvarez (RB, 23): Alvarez is a diminutive right-back that came up through the Monterrey system, debuting with the first team in 2015. Since then, he has worked through a few injuries and only gotten a handful of appearances with Rayados, instead of spending most of his time with the U23s. Last season, he made 8 appearances on loan for Gavilanes in the Mexican 3rd division. He’s about a month younger than Francis Atuahene.
All three internationals are on one-year deals, though NTSC owns the rights to Alisson and Alves outright (as well as an option for 2021), whereas Alvarez is on loan for the second time in as many seasons. Rayo is on a two-year deal (similar to Ima Almaguer), and Ponder is on a one-year with a team option.
In sum, NTSC gets a destroyer of a d-mid, two full-backs (as far as we can tell – who knows what Alves’ best position is), a versatile attacker, and a center-back. If I had to reference the player profiles we discussed last week, Rayo is bridging from the academy, Alisson and Alvarez are players that couldn’t break through at some very good teams and are looking for a second chance to launch their careers, Ponder is a college player with FCD ties, and Alves is a talent that needed a better place to develop.
It’s telling that NTSC’s press release about the internationals specifically mentions that they see these guys as “high projection” players, which I take to be synonymous with “the possibility of making it to the first team”. Apart from Rayo and Alisson, they are a little older than I think is optimal for NTSC (#bringbackDanso), but the fact that NTSC was comfortable enough to sign this group before pre-season should indicate real quality. I, for one, am stoked to see them play.
Where does this leave NTSC?
The club has plenty of holes left to fill. As a reminder, NTSC wants to have enough players on its roster so it can field a full team without any first team or academy players. After these additions, NTSC can roll out a starting 11 plus a couple of subs, but there is obviously more work to be done. Securing more midfield depth, another devoted CB, and a backup goalkeeper are probably next on the to-do list. I’m hoping either Alvarez or Alves could play on the left if needed.
While it’s possible some of the spots left will be filled by FCD’s picks in the recent college draft (more on those below), I think most of the adds from here on in are going to be either academy kids (if NTSC can get more to sign) or trialists to be revealed in February.
Just because they could end up at NTSC, here are a few thoughts on FCD’s draftees from last week, none of whom have been signed yet by the organization. You can read about the players from rounds 1 and 2 here. Anders Engebretsen’s tape suggests an inverted left winger, mostly, which was a real need for NTSC before Rayo signed, but he would be one of the oldest players on the squad. Aidan Megally set the Loyola team record for shots in a season as a senior midfielder – there’s not much film on him, but I’m guessing he’s a 10 if he’s shooting that much from midfield. Derek Waldeck was a do-everything midfielder and captain for Stanford – of all the players drafted by FCD, he might be the one that has the most adaptation to do tactically: Stanford tends to be a watertight bunker-counter team. If I had to make a guess, I’d say NTSC is most likely to end up with one of Megally, Ferriol, or Waldeck.