A 2021 6-pack of potential “protect the investment” homegrown signings for FC Dallas

Some big news came out of the Academy last week with FCD’s top teenage talent Matthew Corcoran – at least he was top on my board anyway – notifying his teammates he’s leaving the FC Dallas Academy.

Corcoran NTX 2021
Matthew Corcoran playing for North Texas SC in 2021.

In case you don’t know what a “protect the investment” homegrown singing is – as mentioned in the title – it’s what we call teenage Academy Homegrown signings.  Most of these kids aren’t ready to contribute when they are signed and they can take years to have an impact. This makes them different from college homegrowns who are expected to contribute much more quickly.

FC Dallas wants to avoid another Weston McKennie type loss so they often sign their very best talents early. Names like Ricardo Pepi, Paxton Pomykal, Bryan Reynolds, and Jesus Ferreira have fallen into this category.

There is a new caveat this year as well, the MLS2 league is around the corner. According to our sources, that league is going to be run like MLS in the sense that all contracts will be with the league. That means there will be some kind of combined MLS/MLS2 contracts that should give the club the ability to sign and stash Homegrowns in MLS2 with North Texas SC.  Rather than the two separate kinds of contracts that exist now that kids and families don’t like.

So we might see some of these names “sign with North Texas” when in reality they are signing a longer-term contract – apparently called an LDL contract our sources say – that will bridge from MLS2 to MLS in a year or two.  Stay tuned to see exactly how that works as the new league is announced.

Corcoran’s departure leaves us with a 2021 PTI signing list that is chock full of pro potential but is missing that star name. 

The 2005/2006 talent bubble is coming up fast and we might even see someone not on my list get signed (see my who’s who in the Academy from the start of the season). After all, I was surprised by the last two homegrown signings the club made.

So these are the players who I think are most likely to get tapped this winter or next summer.

On with my list.

Buzz’s PTI Homegrown List

1. Antonio Carrera

Carrera in FCD training
Antonio Carrera (in blue) during FC Dallas training, 2021. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

Jumping from 5th last year to 1st this year is U19 goalie Antonio Carrera.  Carrera was lower down the list last year because keepers, generally speaking, mature later than field players. I wasn’t sure if FCD would want to sign a teenage keeper. But now their behavior leads me to believe Carrera is about to be signed.

I have previously reported that an unnamed Academy Homegrown has agreed to terms.  Certain factors, including his almost 2-month presence in FC Dallas first-team training in the latter part of the season and his place of late on the North Texas bench ahead of Colin Shutler, have led me to believe it’s Carrera.

The 17-year-old Carrera is a 2004 so he’s in his first season at the U19 level but according to the old Developmental League website, he graduates high school this coming summer.

The 6’3” Carrera has been in the mix with the US U15s and U17s in the past. He is a US Citizen but like his brother Nico – who chose the US at the U17 Worlds – Antonio is also Mexico eligible as he was born in Pachuca.

My prediction is that Carrera will be signed with North Texas this winter and play two seasons with that club before moving up to FCD. Whether they call it a Homegrown deal when it’s announced or not is, I believe, a moot point.  Perhaps he will be on the expected new contract paradigm that bridges from the Academy to North Texas to FC Dallas?

2. Anthony Ramirez

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Anthony Ramirez (in blue) during a Mexico YNT camp in 2021. (Courtesy Mexico YNT)

Up two spots is a talent I just really dig, 15-year-old Anthony Ramirez.  A 2005, Ramirez is a former US U15 but recently got called into Mexico U16 and U18 camps, in fact, he’s in Madrid with Mexico 18s right now. I’ve had his name mentioned to me as the biggest upside in the club.

The best way to describe Ramirez is that he’s a Jesus Ferreira clone. He’s a 10, off-striker, or false-wing. He’s got phenomenal ball skill, can beat multiple players on the dribble, and makes D-splitting passes.

Plus he’s got the best hair in the Academy.

On the downside, he’s a bit small. Both in height and frame. Now his stature doesn’t bother me the tiniest bit (pun intended) but I have heard it mentioned from other people as a concern. The skill and aggressive mentality more than make up for any size issue.

Last year I mentioned that, in the greater soccer landscape, 10s in aren’t as useful as they have been in the past and I felt this factor might hurt his stock, but Ramirez has been doing fantastic work as a winger this year so this concern has faded for me as is applies to him.

3. Diego Hernandez

Diego Hernandez
Diego Hernandez of the FC Dallas U17s takes on Strikers Miami FC in the Dallas Cup, March 29, 2021. (Buzz Carrick, 3rd Degree)

Dropping one spot to number three on the list is FCD’s field-general Diego Hernandez.  Hernandez is the most consistent top performing 2005 and a big leader.  He’s a former US U15 and he made his USL-1 debut with North Texas in 2020 (for just 1 minute of play). 

The 16-year-old Hernandez is a two-way mid who drives the engine and can play as an 8 or 10.  Heck, he can probably even 6 in a pinch. Technically, as a 2005, he’s in the U17 age bracket but the info I’ve been getting is that he’s mostly playing for the FCD U19s so far this season. (MLSNext rosters and game info is very hard to come by.)

So why did I drop him a spot? Not through any fault of his own but rather because FC Dallas as an organization is swamped with 8-style central mids.  Bryan Acosta, Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania… heck Thomas Roberts had to get a loan to find any PT.  Nicky Hernandez, despite being a homegrown, is basically stuck playing for North Texas, and Blaine Ferri is excelling there too. Not to mention Imanol Almaguer who is playing the best ball of his career.

Even in the Academy, there are multiple other 8/10s who are direct competition in an already overloaded position.

So as good as he is, there just may not be room for him right now.

4. Tarik Scott

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FC Dallas U17 forward Tarik Scott (41) cuts around the goalie in the MLS Next Cup quarterfinals match at Toyota Soccer Center. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)

FCD is probably losing Ricardo Pepi this winter and will, I think, partially look to replace him via the Academy.  This need for a 9 elevates Scott and the next name below.

Scott is a rising talent who long has had the tools and finally put it all together this year. Something has “clicked,” if you will, in his ability to use his talent effectively. He’s coming off a Golden Boot win in the 2020-21 MLSNext Playoffs and is a hot name in the Academy. 

The 16-year-old Scott is a 2005, so technically he’s a U17 but it looks like he too plays for the U19s quite a bit. This kid has all the tools: size, power, pace, good instincts, and good ball skills.  He can play either wing as well as 9 with a slashing, high movement style that puts back lines under pressure.

The upside here is really high and the recent growth rate in his game has been remarkable.

5. Nighte Pickering

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Nighte Pickering celebrates after scoring the game’s only goal in the Dallas Cup match against Arizona Real Salt Lake. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)

Pickering is the top pure 9 in the Academy right now. He’s a “fox in the box” type goal poacher. He’s been, give or take, the leading scorer for the 2005s for a few years. He’s a traditional 9 who can post up and finds ways to score. He too is a U17 that plays some U19.

I rank him slightly behind Scott as I think Pickering has less upside. Nighte’s game is greater than his individual parts and when his finishing is off – like in the Dallas Cup earlier this year – he’s not contributing as much beyond hold-up play. So is he more Blas Perez, Franco Jara, or Ruben Luna?

Still, when Ricardo Pepi and Jesus Ferreira were missing on call ups this year, even though he was a U17, it was Pickering that got the call into FC Dallas training as he’s got the skill and plays the pure-9 game.

Pickering has signed with an agent so he’s bypassing college.

Also, the “e” is silent in his first name.

6. Julian Eyestone

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Julian Eyestone.

Holding at number 6, mainly due to his age (he’s a 2006), is FCD’s 6’6” U17 goalkeeper, Julian Eyestone. There’s no reason to move fast on goalkeepers in general and Carrera is ahead of him so FCD should keep the steady pace going as he just his the U17 level.

Eyestone is just 15 and he got the lone FCD call-up to the US U17s this month. FCD is blessed to have two high-grade professional keepers just two years apart.  

Despite being as tall as he is at a young age, Eyestone is terrifically athletic and coordinated. He’s able to get up and down and side to side with quickness. He also plays without fear.

Eyestone is, however, being aggressively recruited by foreign teams already. FCD will need a concrete plan in place and good communication with this kid and his family to keep him.

The Next 5

I’ve talked about what I consider a 2005/2006 talent bubble many times and the upcoming MLS/MLS2 changes, so just in case FCD starts going after even more players than before here are the next 5 PTI names on my list. These five guys (heh) are probably a year away or more.

  1. Malachi Molina – 2006, wing/back
  2. Henry Canizalez – 2006, left back
  3. Alejandro Urzua – 2006, CM
  4. Kris Kelley – 2006, wing
  5. Nolan Norris – 2005, CB/LB

3 Comments

  1. Do you see either Carrera or Eyestone as guys who could potentially be in the mix at keeper for the USMNT? I know that conversation may be 10 years away, but would be pretty cool to have an academy player manning the posts as well, considering Jesse Gonzalez is likely way way out of the picture.

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