FRISCO — Being a captain for a World Cup team is exactly like you would imagine.
The role is accompanied with expectation and responsibility, and FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal took the honor in stride.
He wore the armband for four out of USA’s five U-20 World Cup matches, playing at the heart of the midfield — a box-to-box responsibility that he’s used to handling in MLS.
“I just tried to take everything that I’ve done so far with Dallas this year over there,” Pomykal said. “I think I had more of a leadership role with the US, and I had to adapt to it because Mark — our captain — didn’t really see many minutes over there. I kinda took the leadership role on the team, and took control of the pace. I was the guy in the locker room, so that was a little bit different for me, but I embraced the role and I was happy to do it.”
Pomykal was accompanied by two other FCD representatives in Poland — midfielders Brandon Servania and Edwin Cerrillo. The trio had played together in the FC Dallas Academy growing up, and three flights and a car ride later, they were in Poland representing their club and country at the biggest stage for their age.
Even though Cerrillo didn’t receive any minutes at the World Cup, it was still a special experience for him and his family. It was the first time he was called up to the national team in his career, so he carried a positive attitude throughout the trip, supporting his teammates in any way he could.
“I think with my situation — I wasn’t playing — but I had that mentality of putting the team first, just being there for my teammates,” Cerrillo said. “Honestly, I thought after the first game, if I didn’t get to play, I’d be mad. But, I took that energy and put the team first, and I’m really proud of myself for that.”
The US placed second in its group behind Ukraine, and the team reached the quarterfinals of the tournament — ultimately, falling to Ecuador 2-1. The national team’s journey wasn’t without drama, though. The US managed to knock off France, 3-2, in the Round of 16, capping off a comeback where the Americans scored two unanswered goals within the second half.
The last goal came in the 83rd minute, and Pomykal said it was his favorite memory from his trip overseas. The French side was loaded with players who get first-team minutes amongst the top teams across Europe.
“Beating France has to be up there,” Pomykal said. “It’s a world-class side with guys who are basically controlling first-team minutes in top leagues in Europe. So, to do that, in the way we did it, in a tournament like that was huge. It was a big win.”
The US spent about a month in Poland, giving the players plenty of time to train with their friends from around their home country. For Servania, he said his experience showed him, his team, and the rest of the world that USA could compete with any team in the world, no matter how many talented players it faces.
“Obviously, there were teams who had guys playing for the top clubs in the world,” Servania said. “From here, we look at those clubs like they’re amazing, and we think that we can’t compete. But, we showed it, that we can compete. We beat France, one of the favorites in the tournament, and we were unfortunate to come up with a loss against Ecuador. It just proved to me and to basically all Americans that we’re good enough.”
Now that the trio is back in Dallas, it means FCD’s roster gets some reinforcements after losing some key players to international duty around the globe.
Pomykal and Cerrillo have gotten first-team minutes for the club before their call-ups, and their first opportunities to get back into the swing of things will be in FCD’s Open Cup match against OKC Energy FC on June 12 and the next MLS match against Toronto FC on June 22.