FRISCO - As Tournament Week gets set to begin again around North Texas, it's the biggest chance for FC Dallas to showcase the not-so-distant future of the club on the largest stage.
A year ago next week, the majority of the U-19s’ Dallas Cup group stage was played with a midfield trio of Paxton Pomykal, Thomas Roberts and Edwin Cerrillo - the latter two still playing as relative unknowns outside the walls of Toyota Stadium. Last weekend in Philadelphia, that same trio started for the first team - each in the early stages of a breakout season in their own right.
The captain of that U-19 team? A young Brecc Evans, who now serves as the captain for North Texas SC after a single season at Cal-Poly in the fall. Alongside him at center back was Chris Richards, later a Homegrown and now of Bayern Munich and U.S. Youth National Team fame.
In the Generation adidas Cup, a young Ricardo Pepi was just breaking onto the U-17 scene, playing up an age group during the tournament. Eight months later he became North Texas SC’s first player signing and today is averaging three goals per match in USL League One play (yes, there’s only been one game but you get the point). Oh yeah, he’s still eligible for GA Cup this season - and will likely feature.
The head coach of that team? He’s now the second youngest coach in MLS, playing the youngest lineup in the league and winning doing it. Luchi Gonzalez is a GA Cup veteran, cutting his teeth on the international stage and making a run to the Semifinal in 2016.
“It’s a special week,” Gonzalez said. “It’s amazing to host it and having the facilities to be able to host such an amazing event. Giving these young players of all of our ages international experience playing at the club level, representing our jersey in our community - that’s big for their development, big for their confidence and that process is important for us…All of our current pro players that are Homegrowns have played in this event - whether Dallas Cup or GA Cup - and that helped them take their steps.”
“It’s come at us pretty fast…it’s kind of surreal,” Cerrillo said looking back on the last year. “It’s a great opportunity for all the kids who are going to compete in those two tournaments. It’s honestly one of the most memorable tournaments we’ve ever played in, for example when we played Real Madrid, it gave us a sense of being young pros when we had a bunch of people watching, and same thing in Dallas Cup playing in the Cotton Bowl against Arsenal. It gives us the right steps and it gives us the great games or great level to keep improving and keep developing and one day be on the first team.”
Tournament Week is not only a chance to have the eyes of the global soccer world on North Texas and for FC Dallas to showcase its fruitful Academy. It’s the best chance you’ll have all year to see the stars of tomorrow, who quite literally will be starring for the first team sooner than you think. Support the kids, support the program, but most importantly, enjoy an amazing week of soccer in our own backyard.