FRISCO – Paxton Pomykal’s MLS debut on Saturday was much more than just another Academy product joining the First Team ranks. It was the start of a tradition, and the continuation of a legacy.
Until Saturday night, it had been 2,023 days since the No. 19 graced an MLS lineup for FC Dallas. Until Saturday night, the number had been left dormant in honor of the late Bobby Rhine, who wore it for each of the 212 games he played for the organization.
It returned in the same place, now-Children’s Mercy Park, where Zach Loyd last wore the number and where Rhine called his last game as the club’s broadcaster, 2,023 days prior.
Last September, the newest Homegrown signing – just 16 at the time – asked if he could carry on Bobby’s magnificent legacy. With the blessing of Rhine’s wife, Bevan, and his parents, FC Dallas began a new tradition – having a Homegrown player who represented the values of Bobby and the commitment to the club, wear No. 19 in his honor.
“The decision became an easy one once I learned a little bit more about Paxton…When Paxton called me to let us know what the jersey means to him, it confirmed that he is deserving of No. 19,” Bevan Rhine said at the time. “He is a gifted soccer player, but very humble. He works incredibly hard to continue to improve himself as a student and as a player. And like Bobby, he is instantly likeable. I know that Bobby would be flattered and fully supportive of passing on the No. 19 to Paxton.”
For head coach Oscar Pareja, a close friend and former teammate of Rhine’s, seeing No. 19 return to the field on Saturday was incredibly special.
“It was a very emotional moment when I saw him touching the first ball. I saw a blonde kid there running with such spirit and raised in the philosophy of this club and immediately that brought back the best memories that I had with Bobby,” he said Sunday, visibly moved looking back on the moment. “That was, for me, touching, inspirational and emotional…I was glad to have the memory of such a great man that represented us embodied [in Paxton].”
“It's obviously a really emotional moment for all true FC Dallas fans who got to see the number come back,” Pomykal said after his debut. “I think that for me personally, it was kind of a breather to let the people know that I'm going to be wearing the number proudly and just to get out there and show them that the number is going to be in good hands. For that aspect of the game, I thought it was good and just for the fans to see the number and the legacy live on is a good thing.”