LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – As one of 14 players making his initial MLS All-Star Game appearance, Paxton Pomykal is in good company with the likes of D.C. United’s Wayne Rooney and Atlanta United FC’s Pity Martinez who are also experiencing the league’s midsummer festivities for the first time.
At Monday’s training session at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex, Pomykal tempered his enthusiasm, perhaps thanks to the hot, humid temperature in Orlando, about getting the opportunity to train with the league’s premier players.
“This is day one,” he said with a wry smile during a sweat-drenched post-training media session. “I am happy to be here. Happy to get with the guys on the field, run around a little and get sweaty in the heat.”
What separates Pomykal from his All-Star teammates, including his FC Dallas teammate and three-time All-Star Matt Hedges, is evident. It’s his age. At 19, Pomykal is the youngest MLS All-Star who will represent the league against Atlético Madrid on Wednesday at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium. Atlanta midfielder Ezekiel Barco turned 20 in March while LAFC’s Diego Rossi is 21.
We’ve seen Pomykal the player grow up before our eyes on pitch. Now we’re seeing and hearing more. A growing leader? Perhaps. All-Star media sessions can always be tricky given the range of topics. On this day he fielded interview questions ranging from his favorite Disney character (Donald Duck) and his favorite postgame meal on the road (whatever the team provides in the hotel) to a more serious inquiry about becoming the face of the FC Dallas franchise.
“I’m just working every day, hopefully, to be that guy,” he admitted. “For now, I’m just taking things day-by-day, continuing my form and moving on, hopefully, into the playoffs.”
What is not lost on him is the fact that every day is a learning opportunity and that an experience like an All-Star game is the chance to learn from the best.
“Pretty much everybody that’s here are guys that you want to be like and are kind of role models for myself,” he admitted.
“They carry themselves well on and off the field. To be able to have the meals, dinners, things like that and see how they act interact with each other is going to be good for me.”