FRISCO - Prior to the launch of North Texas SC, the top players from the FC Dallas Academy players with pro aspirations had just two options: earn a very limited number of roster spots with the first team or earn a scholarship to continue to develop at the collegiate level.
North Texas SC trialist Hector Montalvo experienced the pitfalls of this conundrum early on in his career. The defender joined the club’s Academy at age 15 and was a key piece of the U-18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Championship in 2016. Despite his success and obvious talent, Montalvo’s future with FC Dallas was complicated. His dream was to play professionally, but his chances of jumping straight from the U-18s to the first team were slim.
“I spoke with (then-Academy Director) Luchi (Gonzalez) at the time and he told me that I did well with the club but unfortunately they couldn’t sign me and promise me minutes because I was competing with (Walker) Zimmerman and Matt Hedges,” Montalvo said. “So I wasn’t going to play for two or three years until I had grown physically.”
Realizing he wasn’t ready for a the first team, Montalvo had to look elsewhere to continue his development as a player.
“It was either the U-18s to the first team, or U-18s to college, and I knew the first team wasn’t an option, so I went to Grand Canyon University,” said Montalvo, who only spent a semester at GCU. “Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the level of NCAA soccer was making me a better player. Essentially I needed a level that forced me to make mistakes and forced me to learn.”
Montalvo knew he’d have to make a change and play at a higher level if he wanted to fulfill his dream of becoming a professional. He decided to move to Mexican club Tigres, where he was offered a contract to play with their U-20 team.
His time with Tigres was productive. He became a mainstay in their U-20s, even getting called up to train with the first team on occasion. However, after two years, the size and level of the club proved that playing time in the first team was a problem once again.
“I had a gentleman’s agreement with Tigres where if I wasn’t getting to play with the first team by the time I was 21 years old, then they would let me go for free,” Montalvo said. “Luchi (Gonzalez) had started to contact me around August last year. He said FC Dallas and its new USL team (North Texas SC) would always be prepared to take care of me and that the doors are open.”
True to their word, Tigres severed Montalvo’s contract at his request and he was able to move back to Texas to try and pick up where he’d left off. This time, however, the newly created North Texas SC represented the perfect opportunity to gain the precious first-team professional experience Montalvo had been seeking for so long.
But yet again, nothing is guaranteed. Montalvo is currently a trialist with North Texas SC, invited to its preseason with the task of proving to the coaching staff that he’s worthy of a pro contract.
Montalvo’s struggle for first team minutes at FC Dallas and Tigres after graduating from the Academy level is emblematic of why North Texas SC exists today.
“With the USL team functioning as a bridge between the Academy and first team, it makes everything so much easier,” Montalvo said. “If I was 18 years old and North Texas SC existed, obviously I would want to sign with them to eventually be able to make the jump to the first team.”
If his trial period with North Texas Soccer Club goes to plan and he is offered a contract, Montalvo has potentially found the ideal place for his development at this point in his career. Considering he first joined the organization at just 15 years old, the reunion is special for him.
“In all honesty, FC Dallas is what we call in Spanish “club de mis amores” the club of my love,” Montalvo said. “This organization is what made me as a player and I always wanted to come back.”