FRISCO - April 18, 2019 would’ve been the original No. 19, Bobby Rhine’s, 43rd birthday. A club legend as a player and then as a broadcaster, his number has largely been unused since Rhine’s untimely passing in 2011 at just 35 years old.
In 2019, though, the number 19 is making a resurgence.
For the FC Dallas first team, Paxton Pomykal - who sought out and began the tradition of a boyhood idol’s number becoming a Homegrown tradition nearly three years ago - is stealing the headlines across MLS in the midst of a breakout campaign.
And at the youngest reaches of the club’s Academy, though, another number 19 has emerged in 2019: Bobby’s son Jake Rhine, who in his first season in the Academy with the club’s U-12 South team.
“The reflection is always emotional,” Jake’s mom and Bobby’s former wife Bevan Rhine Liverman said. “But the fact that everything is so full circle with it being 2019, having Jake be in the Academy this year for the first time, the jersey numbers and the generations of the number being Bobby, Paxton and Jake…is pretty awesome.”
“It feels like an opportunity that's just been waiting to happen,” Jake said Wednesday as his team began its first Dallas Cup, a tournament Bobby himself once played in as a youth player from the suburbs of St. Louis. “It means a lot (to play for FC Dallas). I have to carry through his reputation and it means a bunch to me and everybody I know.”
Now spanning two generations, the legacy of Bobby Rhine is alive in 2019 perhaps more than ever.
“It's cool to see Jake doing his thing for the club and I'm proud of him to be in the Academy and represent FC Dallas,” Pomykal said. “We're a family and for him to be able to play for his dad's club, that's awesome and it's great to see that.”
“Jake doesn't have to be playing soccer to make us proud and that wouldn't have been a requirement of Bobby's either, but the fact that he is is pretty special,” Rhine Liverman said. “Jake and I have talked about (it). It's a cool connection that he has with his dad. Having lost him at such a young age, that's something that he can continue to hold on to.”
On the field, Jake carries many of the same characteristics that his father was so beloved for, most importantly his care and respect for others. During the second half of the U-12s’ opening match, one of Jake’s teammates went down injured and needed medical attention. Despite being on the bench for the whole match, he was the first one to jump up from the bench, grab his water bottle and rushed to his teammate’s side to help.
“Humility is I think one of the characteristics that Bobby most strongly exuded. That sense of being a teammate,” Rhine Liverman said before the match started. “For Jake, whether it’s on the field or off, it's (about) being a good friend to somebody, stopping and helping somebody who may need it, playing with a kid at school who might not have a group of friends. I hear compliments all the time from those around us that he is that kid, and it makes me incredibly proud.”
Those traits aren’t exclusive to the younger 19, either.
“So many of Paxton's qualities remind me a lot of Bobby's - hard work, good citizen, good teammate, friendly, goes out of his way, he's always going to hold your eyes in a conversation, he's going to engage you, he's going to care about you. And on top of that, he's a phenomenal player.”
Through the first seven matches of 2019, Pomykal has already tripled his career minutes played, while scoring his first two MLS goals and being named to MLS Team of the Week three times in the span of six consecutive starts.
With his emergence as a regular in the FCD lineup, it’s the first time that the number 19 has been a regular on the field since 2011. And the significance is one that never escapes the Homegrown’s mind.
“Being able to play and wear the 19 and represent him is an honor, especially this year because I'm on the field and playing and contributing week-in and week-out,” Pomykal said. “I'm trying to really wear his number with pride…me being on the field in the 19 jersey, it's not really my name on the back, it's really his.”
And with every passing milestone in the Homegrown’s breakout season, there is a text from Bevan and Jake awaiting him after the final whistle. And with moments in Jake’s career, it works the same.
“We share the accomplishments, Paxton's and Jake's, with each other,” Rhine Liverman said. “The year he (Paxton)’s having so far…it's been really fun to celebrate those little victories with him. At first it was his first start, then immediately it was his first goal and his first man of the match. He's just had these accomplishments come so quick this year, it's been really fun.”
“It's just cool to have that support and just know that it's not just three years ago support, it's every day since that they're watching me and I'm keeping in touch with them,” Pomykal said. “Bevan's expressed how happy she is for me and what I'm doing and that I'm wearing the number well. It makes me happy to know that. Her opinion is the most important, ultimately, and for her to reach out to me and say things like that, it means the world to me.”