Ask any young player what they need to develop and the answer is almost universally going to be playing time on the field. With that in mind, FC Dallas sent two of their brighter young stars, goalkeeper Richard Sanchez and forward Bradlee Baladez, to the NASL’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers for the 14-game fall season, an experience that certainly seemed to pay off for the Dallas duo.
“Since the first day I trained with the Strikers, I felt good and confident,” said Sanchez. “I knew that going in there I had to earn my spot, so I kept that in mind to just work hard. I caught the coaches eye, and he was happy with the way I was performing in training so he started me in the first game and from there I felt like I progressed and felt like I stayed consistent.”
Sanchez started all 14 games for the Strikers, a run stretching from August 3 to November 2. The Mexican youth international impressed for Fort Lauderdale posting three straight shutouts while coming within minutes of setting the all-time league shutout record. Sanchez’s play earned league-wide praise including an NASL Player of the Week awarded to the 19-year-old in late August.
“It’s built my confidence a lot,” Sanchez said of the experience. “You build confidence through playing games like that and going through experiences on the field whether it’s mistakes you have or good things you do, you learn from it and gain experience.”
Farther up the field, Sanchez’s FC Dallas compatriot, Bradlee Baladez, had an equally-respectable run of first team action with Fort Lauderdale. The Mesquite-native scored his first professional goal in his second start for the club, a game-winner over Atlanta on August 24. He proceeded to make 12 appearances for the club scoring four goals, good for second-highest on the team as well as a tie for 11th in the league.
“I think it was good, I had a good time and it was good to get some games and some minutes back on the field playing,” said Baladez. “I met a lot of great people, made friends and it was a good experience.”
For Baladez, it was a first taste of a long-term run of first team action having made just one MLS appearance for FCD prior to the loan. Coached by Günter Kronsteiner, an Austrian notable for leading Austria Vienna, Baladez said he learned a good bit about life as a professional.
“It was just about being locked in and focused for 90 minutes because there are a lot of times where players will switch on and switch off rather than staying focused,” Baladez said of what he learned from the Austrian. “It’s a big transition that I have to make to have a brighter future to just stay completely locked in for 90 minutes and never give up but to keep fighting.”
Now back in Frisco, both players already have their eyes firmly fixed on the 2014 season with a new coach to impress as they look to lock down a first team spot with FCD.