As part of our wrap up of the 2019 season, we asked several members of the FC Dallas media to join us for a 6-part roundtable series.
Joining us for part three of the roundtable will be Dan Crooke and Buzz Carrick from 3rd Degree, Peter Welpton from The Kickaround, Clay Massey formerly of FCD Radio, Dustin Nation from the Dallas Soccer Show, Nico Mendez, who is joining 3rd Degree as a writer, and John Lenard of 3rd Degree.
Our third topic for discussion is “Breakout Player.”
Dan Crooke – Writer 3rd Degree & MLSSoccer.com
My breakout player of the year is Brandon Servania. He wasn’t expected to do much this season beyond age a little more and get some time with North Texas SC. He was firmly behind Cerrillo and Hayes to start the season, but by the end of it, he’s keeping Paxton Pomykal off the field as an indispensable piece.
Considering the quality of play from Edwin Cerrillo early on, Servania went to the U-20 World Cup and maybe wasn’t expected to do a whole lot before going back to playing for North Texas SC. Instead, we saw him starting as both a 6 and 8 ahead of both Cerrillo and DC’s Chris Durkin. He came back and took the FCD starting job as the team adjusted to life post-Carlos Gruezo. The 20-year-old featured in 18 of the 19 games FC Dallas played following the World Cup. The only game he missed was due to a concussion. That role was earmarked for Paxton Pomykal, as either a traditional 8 or ‘free 8’ behind Jesus Ferreira.
Brandon Servania’s performances were largely what kept the team’s best player on the bench. He supports Acosta well, transitioning between a double pivot in defense to supporting the number 10 in attack with ease. Servania was third this year in shots from outside the box scoring that wonderful goal against New Mexico United in the Open Cup, but can also get in the box as his brace against Minnesota United demonstrated.
Dustin Nation – Co-Host, Dallas Soccer Show
The obvious choice for this title would be Ryan Hollingshead. FC Dallas’ Renaissance Man again showed his versatility by having a fantastic season at left-back and finishing tied for 3rd on the team with six goals (although I think I jinxed him by pressuring him to choose a goal song). However, Hollingshead has been around Frisco for a while and his ability to contribute in unique ways isn’t really a surprise to many who follow FC Dallas.
On the other hand, Brandon Servania’s emergence as a starter in June was much more surprising. Spending much of 2018 on loan with Tulsa Roughnecks FC in USL, he was kept with the first team for Luchi Gonzalez’s first season at the helm. Through the first 16 matches of the season, he managed only one substitute appearance, for a grand total of two minutes of playing time.
After making his first-ever start against Toronto in June, Servania played almost every match. His style of play and maturity helped the FC Dallas midfield link play while also providing extra cover for the defense. In fact, Servania’s presence was so crucial to the team down the stretch, that in the five matches he didn’t start in the second half of the season, they managed a meager 1W-1D-3L. He even got in on the goal-scoring with two late goals coming off the bench in the wild 5-3 win over Minnesota in August.
His performances might not have been the team’s most sexy, but the 20-year-old certainly made the most of his opportunities and surprised many by proving to be an indispensable part of the team.
Clay Massey – Former Writer & Producer, FCD Radio
FC Dallas fans have known about this young man and seen glimpses of his talent for a while, but it was awesome to see him be able to produce at the professional level this year. Plenty can be said for Paxton Pomykal and his work in 2019, but I do believe it is fair to give Jesus the spotlight here.
As the team’s leading goal scorer, the 18-year-old definitely demanded the attention of both Colombia and the United States. He’s not a rookie, but in his first true full season as a pro, he was a key part of the FC Dallas attack and did both the majority of the scoring and a lot of the providing as he checked in just under Michael Barrios (15A) with six assists. His versatility as a midfielder, forward and even winger at times will be important for the rest of his time as an FC Dallas player before, hopefully, a big-money move to a European club. David should be very proud of his son’s 2019 season.
Peter Welpton – Co-Host, The Kickaround
While I appreciate the love shown by others for Ryan Hollingshead and even “The ZObra”, I’m not sure how either can be considered a breakout. The former just continued to be that dependable utility player who grew positively as a left back and the latter more like “sputtered to life”. I could be sold on Paxton since this was really his first regular run and those first few weeks were thrilling, but the whole latter half – for whatever reason – seemed to run its course.
But, there was a regular source of excitement and hype on the FC Dallas roster and that would be the one true “breakout” star – Ricardo Pepi. Sure, the kid only played 71 minutes for the senior team and failed to convert any goals – but tell me who else inside the Frisco compound single-handedly created more anticipation and excitement to see on the field – whether it be for FCD or NTXSC. Fans got excited to see him in the 18, and in those few appearances, people put down their smartphones and watched to see what he would do.
FC Dallas has a mess of rising stars, but this season’s breakout was clearly El Train.
Buzz Carrick – Founder and Editor, 3rd Degree
For me, a breakout player means someone who did something we didn’t expect. In 2018, Pomykal played a grand total of 125 minutes. That’s just over half what Thomas Roberts played this year. Pomykal was a non-factor.
I went back and looked at my depth chart prediction coming out of 2018, in it, I had Pomykal listed as the back up at each wing and I was so convinced he would play there that I listed him 3rd at the attacking mid position behind Pablo Aranguiz and Roberts. In the spring it looked like Pomykal was on his way to being one of the opening day starters at the dual-8s only to lose out to Bryan Acosta and Jacori Hayes about two weeks before the start of the season.
By week two of the season, Pomykal was back in the starting lineup and he was FCD’s runaway MVP of the first half of the season. He was the one exciting, difference-making player for FCD and opponents began to game plan and scheme for him. He started to attract double teams. The FCD marketing department put him in front of every camera they could find attempting to make him the face of the franchise. And by the midpoint of the season he by non-other than MLS Commissioner Don Garber to be an MLS All-Star. That to me is a breakout season and a breakout star.
I think if he hadn’t broken down physically over the late stages of the season, Pomykal would have been FCD’s MVP by a large margin.
Nico Mendez – Writer, 3rd Degree and Dallas Sports Nation
It’s not necessarily that Brandon Servania had a breakout season but more so of the impact that he had on the field and how much he could change and influence a game. The club has known of the potential and skill that Servania possesses.
He was part of the first FC Dallas Academy team that won the Gordon Jago Dallas Cup Super Group title back in 2017, had 3 goals and 11 assists in 20 games while playing for Wake Forest and earned a place on the ACC All-Freshman Team, when on loan to the Tulsa Roughnecks in 2018 making 16 appearances and placing 14th on the 2018 USL 20 players under 20. In 2019 he played in 20 competitive FC Dallas games, scored 14 goals and 3 assists and 4 games with North Texas SC.
Again, it’s no surprise the impact that Brandon Servania
would have for FC Dallas but given the success that he had in his first year
playing for FC Dallas. He substituted into games and earned goals to give FC
Dallas points. In the games he started, he demonstrated professionalism and
composure and showed that he can compete against veteran MLS players while
proving to be a reliable player on the team.
It does help that he is playing under new MLS coach (now tenured) Luchi Gonzalez who is familiar with the skill set of Servania and has the faith to play his younger players. Given the recent performances, Servania is a player to watch for the upcoming 2020 season to see how much he continues to develop.
John Lenard – Writer, 3rd Degree and SocTakes
It took me roughly half a second to pick a breakout player for 2019. Two words: Zdeněk Ondrášek
Ondrášek arrived to much fanfare and social media hype (looking at you /r/FC Dallas), with the belief that he was our long-awaited center forward savior, the answer to our prayers for a 15-goal striker. He came with a rather promising pedigree of results in the Polish Ekstraklasa, sporting 11 goals in his last 19 games, finally made the bench for the fourth game of the season aaaaaaaand…
…he was bad. Following three appearances off the bench, he went more than a month without seeing the field, came back, got his first start for FCD, and he was still bad. That left him out of the squad for much of the summer, which left him primed for one of the greatest breakout spells in team history.
Kobra came on at halftime in Montreal for Bryan Reynolds with the Hoops down 3-0 on the road, and kickstarted a comeback for the ages, scoring the first of three goals to salvage a road point. The Kobra had finally arrived. From then through the end of the season, Kobra was on fire, scoring 2 against both Houston and Kansas City, and finishing with 7 goals in his last 9 games. He immediately catapulted himself from has-been to superstar, and now even his biggest haters have turned.
I can’t wait to see what he’s got in store for next year.
And as always, tell us who you picked for Breakout Player down below!