FRISCO - There are nights you never forget moments that make you say “I was there.” For the FC Dallas Homegrown movement, Saturday was one of those nights - one when the development pipeline was kicked into overdrive.
Before the week’s MLS match even started, it was already night to remember. For the fact alone that the club’s long-awaited USL franchise officially kicked off its inaugural season, it was one to celebrate. No longer would bright, young Academy products have to wait in the wings, largely without meaningful playing time like Paxton Pomykal or Jesus Ferreira did in their first two years as professionals.
“When I think about it, it is a special time,” North Texas SC coach Eric Quill said after the match. “We need to understand that and celebrate with each other and (know) that a lot of hard work went behind it. It’s special. The kids want to be great for it, the staff wants to be great for it. I think FC Dallas as a whole is going to be better for it by having this pillar of play."
With the bridge between the Academy and the first team fully built, Academy graduates have already already started taking their first steps. Leading the charge is 16-year-old Ricardo Pepi, who put an exclamation mark on the opening win with a hat trick - the first in team and league history.
“He’s growing. He has a hunger to score goals which is rare and he’s got, like I said a million times before, he can finish any way,” Quill added. “He’s going to keep getting better and better."
If that were it, it would’ve been a great night for the FCD model. What happened in Utah made it perhaps the biggest night in club history in terms of development.
Two of the very players who had to sit and wait for their time over the last two seasons took the promise and hope that North Texas SC brings to the table and put the full spectrum on national display.
With three goals and an assist between them, Pomykal and Ferreira have taken full advantage of the opportunity their former Academy coach Luchi Gonzalez has given them - and they’re here to stay.
It was also the second straight match in which Dallas started five Homegrowns - the first time it’s ever been done, and surely something that will happen with greater frequency as the season rolls on. Reggie Cannon and Jesse Gonzalez are near locks on FCD’s roster sheet week-in and week-out, and their company is growing with the performances of Pomykal and Ferreira. A young Edwin Cerrillo showcased his worthiness of a starting spot for the second week as well, playing like someone who was in his third year patrolling an MLS midfield, not his third match.
"It's all I know, it's all we know is that idea [of developing the next generation]," first-team head coach Luchi Gonzalez said. "It's special now to see the second team and knowing that we can not just compete, but win games with young players at the second team level and the first team level. I don't know how long we can call these guys kids."
Saturday was a crowning achievement in not only there here and now of the FC Dallas Academy pipeline, but a glimpse into what the future holds with North Texas SC and the rising stars seeing time in USL League One. In a few years, we’ll all look back fondly on a late March night when it all started in 2019.