Over the last couple of seasons, there’s been a clear trend with the young Homegrown players being sold by FC Dallas to Europe.
Reggie Cannon and Bryan Reynolds are both modern attacking outside backs. Chris Richards – loaned and sold to Bayern – and now Justin Che – loaned to Bayern – are taller, athletic, good passing center backs who are skilled with the ball at the feet.
Three of the four are converted attackers and Richards was a basketball point guard giving him terrific passing vision. The offensive qualities and ball skills they all possess are the name of the game as a defender in modern football.
It has been true for some time now that FC Dallas loves to convert attackers to defenders. It’s not like they invented this idea or anything, but these recent player sales are reinforcing the value of this concept.
This brings us to the question of the day… Who’s Next? Who are the modern defenders FC Dallas is developing?
Let’s take a look.
Not all of these players on this list are converted attackers, but I think they all fit the mold of what FCD has been successfully selling of late: the modern athletic defender. This list is made from my own viewing/scouting with some word of mouth mixed in.
This is not the protect the investment, future stars list. It’s not as sexy a list. These players are the projects, the works in progress. The ones that could turn into the next sellable defender or asset for FC Dallas – the next Reynolds, Cannon, Richards, or Che.
Ema Twumasi – FC Dallas – Right Back
I’ve been saying this winter that I believe FC Dallas will attempt the right back conversion with Ema Twumasi now that Bryan Reynolds has been sold. Eddie Munjoma is available as well, but isn’t MLS ready in my mind. Yes, Ryan Hollingshead, Bressan, and Johnny Nelson might factor in early season coverage/rotations.
Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez talked about Twumasi as a right back about a year ago. They even tried him there in some scrimmages and liked the result. Twumasi was supposed to play right back at Austin, which he did some, if not as much as was expected or hoped.
Upon his return to FCD in late 2020, Twumasi got into some MLS games down the stretch, showing that Coach G has a certain amount of faith in him.
I’m expecting Twumasi to be the next attacking wing to right back conversion and that he will become the starter early in the year… if not by opening day.
Collin Smith – North Texas SC – Right Back
This one is merely a suggestion on my part. I have no clue if anyone at FCD has thought of this, I just think it would be a great idea.
Collin Smith – 16 years old, at the time – played last season as an attacking wing for North Texas SC and did well for himself. 15 games, 7 starts, 1 goal, 1 assist, and 7 key passes. Not bad, not bad at all.
Here’s the thing though, for me, Smith is too one-dimensional for MLS.
Yes, the pace is fantastic and some of the skills are pro-caliber, just maybe not MLS caliber. I see in him as a faster Abe Thompson. 15 years ago, Smith’s skill set would have gotten him a ton of games in MLS. Now? I don’t think it does.
Yet Smith is a good crosser, with his pace he can beat a guy and get a ball in. How might that look coming from deep on an overload? I think he could be a devastating attacking outside back.
If he’s willing to give it a shot, North Texas SC is the perfect place to try it. Would he take a shot at being the next Bryan Reynolds or stick with being the next Abe Thompson?
Ty Reynolds – FCD U19s – Right Back
This one is obvious and is probably on the minds of a lot of clubs already cause genetics.
Like this older brother, Top Tier Ty (See what I did there, TTT? No?) was an attacking wing and converted to outside back. He made the change at a younger age than Bryan, so he’s got a head start on this project.
I don’t think Ty is quite as athletic as Bryan, so the immense upside may not be there. Ty looks like he’s got game to be a pro if he wants it.
Ty is a 2004 – which is a U17 in age bracket – and has been playing up with the U19s quite a bit (2002s and 2003s).
If my Smith idea turns out to be just a daydream on my part, then keep an eye out for the younger Reynolds to hit North Texas SC sometime this year.
Danny Elizalde – FCD U19s – Left Back
Cesar “Danny” Elizalde is an FCD U17 (2004) from El Paso who as a central mid made some US Youth International camps. I thought had he left the Academy, but it turned out he missed around a year with an injury.
Post-recovery FCD has been trying him some as a left back with the U19s. Again, like with Ty Reynolds, that’s up an age level.
Danny is a seriously quality soccer player, it will be interesting to see if this experiment continues over the next few seasons.
Side note: if you are wondering why you had to go this far down the list to find a left back it’s because this “hole” is where Jonathan Gomez was. JoGo’s a converted winger too. He chose to sign with Lou City and I imagine he will be heading to Europe at 18. He’s gonna be a big “one that got away.” Maybe not Weston McKennie big, but big,
Pranav DuBroff – FCD U17s – Center Back
While he doesn’t yet have the size, what he does have is the passing and the quality feet. DeBuff fits the model of the modern center back. He’s a 2005, so he’s got plenty of time to mature physically.
So far, DuBroff is the most highly regarded defender in the 2005s.
Cristian Gallo – FCD U17s – Right Back
Gallo is yet another forward being tried as a right back. I don’t know a whole lot about him as a right back, to be fair. So I can’t really speak about his qualities there yet.
As a forward/wing, he’s been a bit up and down when I’ve seen him. Looking good in one game and showing less in the next.
I’m keeping an open mind until I see him in the back a few times.
Nolan Norris – FCD U17s – Left Back
Norris is one of my favorite players in the Academy. He’s got a fantastic soccer brain and a bunch of skill on the ball getting forward. As a left back he’s made me say, “oh wow” on multiple occasions.
Right now, he seems to be struggling a bit with the size and power of kids who have physically matured earlier, but if he catches up, I think he’s got everything it takes to be an outstanding pro.
Gabriel “Toro” Brandon – U15s – Center Back
Not a towering center back… yet. – I wouldn’t mind a couple more inches in height, but he is just 14 – but a top-tier athlete, terrific leader, and a really strong defender. A 2006, but he was recently elevated to training with the U17s which is very telling.
Toro is the highest-ranked defender in this article by Top Drawer Soccer. He’s got all the tools for the modern game. He’s the rock and leader at the back for the U15s.
Keep an eye on this kid, he’s seriously legit. I have high hopes.
Henry Canizalez – FCD U15s – Left Back
A natural left back, Canizalez isn’t a converted attacker but he has been recommended to me as having all the qualities of an end-to-end guy in the FCD system.
A 2006, he was also elevated to U17 training along with Toro.
Malachi Molina – FCD U15s – Right Back
An attacking winger who’s been tried at right back of late with the u15s (2006s). Mal is a fantastic athlete, tons of tools. He really caught my eye on my limited viewings (darn you, covid). I thought he had plenty of attacking game to make the pros as a wing, but perhaps FCD sees an even bigger upside with him out of the back?
Mal could be a modern, end-to-end, attacking back in the Bryan Reynolds mold if he and FCD stick with this conversion. And if he progresses of course. It’s always about the progression.
A Rich Production Line
The FC Dallas Academy continues to churn out great talent. The factory does not stop.
Are all of these kids going to make it? No. No way. If even half make it, the haul in sales and talent for FCD will be massive.
And there are probably some I missed for my list. (Hey, that rhymes!)