FRISCO - The FC Dallas development model is now complete.
Widely-touted as the best Academy system in MLS and leading the way with 23 Homegrowns signed to first-team contracts, the knock on the FCD way has been bridging the gap between the top-level Academy teams and the MLS roster.
Now, with a USL League One team officially announced to begin play in 2019, there’s a stepping stone between the two. And that step isn’t exclusive to Academy players, either.
No longer will Dallas be loaning players to USL teams around the region for games here and there like Homegrowns Brandon Servania, Jesus Ferreira and Jordan Cano, as well as SuperDraft picks Francis Atuahene and Ema Twumasi did in 2018. Other pro-signed players who haven’t been able to crack the MLS matchday roster on a regular basis will now be able to get games on a weekly basis as well - names like Paxton Pomykal, Kris Reaves and Bryan Reynolds.
The single-most important aspect of developing pro players is repetition, getting real minutes in game scenarios to continue pushing each one out of his comfort zone with a higher intensity than can ever be replicated on the training ground.
To see the proof of what consistent playing time at the USL level can mean, look no further than Jacori Hayes.
After being drafted in 2017, the Wake Forest grad played one game for FCD at the start of the season during Concacaf Champions League play before a long, frustrating stretch waiting in the wings in Frisco. A loan later in the season to Tulsa seemed like a low point, but created the foundation to his budding pro career.
“I didn't make any gameday rosters for months, Hayes wrote for an In His Words column last December on FCDallas.com. “Getting games for the Roughnecks was the best thing for me at this time in my young career and prepared me for what lied ahead.”
After 10 games with Tulsa in 2017, Hayes took MLS by storm at the start of 2018, starting seven straight matches for FCD out of the gate and appearing in 16 total games over the course of the season - falling two shy of breaking 1,000 minutes played.
The goal has always been to get minutes and playing time to developing players as much as possible. The difficulty in doing so with affiliations or other teams outside your umbrella is that each franchise is still responsible for its local success. Often times the players needing minutes from Dallas’ perspective in development don’t necessarily match up with positions of need from each franchise.
By having its own club next season, all of that changes for FCD.
The players who need minutes can truly get minutes, even after training with the first team for stretches of the week. Just like the FCD Academy trains alongside the pro team, don’t be surprised to see a heavy integration between USL and MLS at Toyota Soccer Center. That’s the beauty of controlling the model from the top down.
And the same philosophy works in the other direction, too. As players filter down the ladder for minutes from the pro level, the top talent at the Academy level can climb up, pushing each player’s game outside his comfort level. We’ve seen this become the norm across the Academy with players playing up at a level that pushes them on the field rather than just with their age group.
The top talents across the organization can now find a level that suits their own pathway and, in turn, the FC Dallas development model becomes that much stronger with another tool to mold the future.