Digging Deep – reviewing 3rd Degree’s FCD Academy homegrown lists

I’ve been scouting the FC Dallas Academy for a few years now and making prediction/suggestion lists for Homegrown signings.

As part of my process I, from time to time, review what I thought of players then and now. How did their careers turn out? Was I right? What can I learn?

I was making a document this week tracking all the Homegrown target lists I’ve made when it occurred to me that other people might be interested. So I asked some people in the 3rd Degree Discord and they said, “Heck yes.”

So here we are.

May 2018

This is the oldest Homegrown list I can find and since we were with the DMN for about a decade I think I would have the docs for any lists if I had done them prior to 2018.

I started watching the Academy much more aggressively around this time and created my first Academy boards in 2019 (no, you can’t see them) so this timeline makes sense. Chris Richards had just signed a Homegrown deal in April.

For the first version of a homegrown list, I had 5 player suggestions: one 2nd year U19, two first-year U19s, and two U17s.

2nd yr U19Chris Cappis1999Probably the player I was highest on coming out of the Academy.  MLS and the Dynamo screwed FCD out of signing him. He signed with Bobro IK that winter instead.
1st yr U19Edwin Cerrillo2000He was a dominant 6 at the U19 level. I deemed him ready for the first-team squad.
1st yr U19Thomas Roberts2001He was a game-changing player at this level. Remarkably so. Just destroyed pretty much everyone at U19.
U17 WatchBeni Redzic2002Beni was impressively skilled at the U17 level and stood out. I later changed my mind about him.
U17 WatchDante Sealy2003Sealy was a U15 playing with the U17s and crushing it. Even as a U15, he was getting US U17 call-ups.

I had a bunch of other players I talked about in various categories in this piece. You can go read the list of names if you want. It was more like an Academy who’s who.

It was too much.

Who Did I Miss?

Ricardo Pepi – I did mention him but I hadn’t seen him play. He was just 14 at the time of the above post but I had him on my 17s watch list as he was playing up. People had told me about him but he was often listed as a midfielder at the time with a couple of US and Mex YNT camps.

Yes, at one time Dante Sealy – who was ever-present in US Youth National Teams – was more highly regarded than Ricardo Pepi. Life is strange sometimes.

That fall Pepi started dominating at forward and was signed to an NTX deal in Dec of 2018 and to a Homegrown deal in June of 2019. EL Tren was real and coming on fast.

Chris Cappis playing for the FC Dallas U19s (Arman Kafai / 3rd Degree)
Chris Cappis playing for the FC Dallas U19s (Arman Kafai / 3rd Degree)

January 2019

For this second version, shortly after Pepi joined North Texas SC, I separated players into categories of “Sign Now,” “Maybe Later,” “USL Deal,” and “U17 Watch List.”

While North Texas SC was launching, I was already on board with the idea of signing kids to NTX contracts early and then Homegrown deals later.

Here are the Homegrown suggestions.

Sign NowEdwin Cerrillo2000Cerrillo signed on February 14th, shortly after I wrote this.
Sign NowDante Sealy2003Sealy signed on February 26th, again not long after this post. Again, yes, before Pepi.
Maybe LaterBeni Redzic2002I think I was impressed by the individual skill and was wanting to see a progression in team concepts. He wasn’t there yet.

At this point, I had both a USL list and a U17 Watch List that were, quite frankly, too long for this purpose. You will see in later years I learned to thin the list out.

USL Contract List: Girban Rayo, Tanner Tessmann, Johan Gomez, and Kevin Bonilla.

U17 Watch list: Nico Carrera, Diego Letayf, and David Rodriguez.

Of course, Academy players can play in what is now MLS Next Pro on an amateur contract and only rare examples of players need (or want) an MLSNP deal prior to age 18.

Like David Rodriguez who would sign a North Texas deal in February and was later transferred to Atlético San Luis.

Thomas Roberts, Edwin Cerrillo, and Bryan Reynolds take part in Bayern Munich training on day one of their November 2019 training stint. (Bayern Munich)
Thomas Roberts, Edwin Cerrillo, and Bryan Reynolds take part in Bayern Munich training on day one of their November 2019 training stint. (Bayern Munich)

May 2019

By this time I was learning to trim my lists a bit. I had three players I considered important, or high priority, that were close to being able to help the first team and three that I thought were worth signing as longer-term investments.

High PriorityTanner Tessmann2001Prior to his Clemson double-commit, he was already a big deal for NTX. I was convinced he was going to be a beast in soccer.
High PriorityJonathan Gomez2003Almost from the jump, I believed this kid had massive upside. Shortly after this post, he became the LB starter at NTX helping them win the 2019 title.
High PriorityKevin Bonilla2001I had him as next up at RB after Reynolds as he too was the common starter for NTX in their title run.
InvestmentNico Carrera2002Raw, but I thought he was worth signing and investing NTX playing time in.
InvestmentDiego Letafy2002After the Sub 17 Mexico tourney, he started getting Mexico YNT caps. Eventually, he got poached.
InvestmentBeni Redzic2002He was playing up with the 19s… as I said above, I thought he had a lot of talent. But you will see by winter I was out on him.

My wait-and-see list at this point was Gibran Rayo and Johan Gomez. Two players that were interesting but weren’t convincing me they should be signed as Homegrowns.

Jonathan Gomez
Jonathan Gomez rushes upfield with Greenville’s Evan Lee in pursuit in the USL League One Final won by North Texas SC, October 19, 2019. (@CMARCHO | Craig Marcho / 3rd Degree)

October 2019

The list was getting focused and ranked. Much more like I do today.

1Jonathan Gomez2003JoGo’s people negotiated with FCD but the deal fell apart, according to my sources, over contract length. So he signed with Lou City in the USL Championship instead and the phrase “Doing a Jogo” was born. Now, of course, he’s in Europe.
2Tanner Tessmann2001Even now, I’m amazed it took a strong spring FCD camp – that Tanner was only invited to because of an injury -for FCD to think he was worth a contract. Signed Homegrown Feb 27, 2020
3Kevin Bonilla2001Helped NTX win the 2019 title and then covid happened. He played some more NTX in 2020 on an amateur deal after graduating high school and then went to Portland. FCD just doesn’t seem to rate him as I do.
4Nico Carrera2002Signed with Holstein Kiel in July 2020 and is still a pro there on the fringes of their first team.
5Diego Letayf 2002He Joined Tigres U20s and post-pandemic is playing at Georgetown.

I suggested two players for USL contracts (come May) the first was Gibran Rayo. He beat me to it and signed in January of 2020. The other was Malik Henry-Scott who is a senior at Tulsa this fall and is on my college watch list.

You will notice the absence of Beni Redzic. He was still with the club but I wasn’t seeing the progression I wanted so I moved him off my potential Homegrown list.

FCD U17s in 2019
Seth Wilson, Nico Carrera, David Rodriguez, and Diego Letayf with the FC Dallas U17s in 2019 in Guadalajara, Mexico. (3rd Degree)

And then the Pandemic happened…

December 2020

Covid interrupted everything and that meant large disruptions to the Academy system. As one of many consequences, there was no summer Homegrown list. There was also a boatload of players leaving the Academy for contracts or graduation.

So we jump right to December and you’ll see a big turnover in names.

1Matthew Corcoran2006I was so high on this kid as a U15. Maybe the best game reader I’ve ever seen in the Academy. He made his NTX debut in early 2021… Told his teammates he was leaving in Oct… and did a JoGo signing with Birmingham Legion in Jan of 2022.
2Diego Hernandez2005Hernandez had made his NTX debut in 2020, albeit for just a few minutes, but he was the first 2005 to do so.
3Jordan Jones2005Jones turned out to be a big miss. He was quite highly ranked among the top players in the country… I thought he had the tools to be a massive signing. During one US U15 camp he was so good he got invited to stay for U17 camp… and today I don’t think he’s going to play in college. Massive fall off. And I don’t know why.
4Anthony Ramirez2005My love for this kid’s talent started early, he had just turned 15. A frequent US and Mexico YNTer from U15 to U18.
5Antonio Carrera2004Started playing for FCD U19s and training with NTX while a U17. The verdict was still out for some people but at this point but I was already a believer.
6Julian Eyestone2006Pretty sure he was just 14 when I first ranked him. But he was already 6’5″ and training with North Texas SC a bit.

Who Did I Miss?

A couple of guys actually. But some of that was due to Covid and the lack of a mid-season list. And some two were an FCD overreach in my opinion.

Justin Che – Che came on fast post-Pandemic and after his play for North Texas, FCD signed Che to a Homegrown deal in October of 2020 removing him from the top of my list. So I missed him for timing if that makes sense.

Beni Redzic – By this time I didn’t think Redzic should be homegrown and I stand by that judgment today. His signing caught me off guard. I would have been ok with a Next Pro deal. FCD signed him in the Spring of ’21. He was let go after ’22.

Collin Smith – The 2nd player I didn’t think should be a Homegrown, although I was very interested in him as a right back conversion project. But it was a project and I thought he should be in MLS Next Pro and not homegrown. I still think I’m right about that. FCD signed him in April ’21 and after a year playing for NTX he was loaned to Birmingham Legion in ’23 where things are going well.

Justin Che sends a ball into the box in the first half of the USL League One match between North Texas SC and Forward Madison at Globe Life Park. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)
Justin Che sends a ball into the box in the first half of the USL League One match between North Texas SC and Forward Madison at Globe Life Park. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)

November 2021

Looking back now, I’m not sure why I seem to have skipped doing a summer 2021 list.

But moving on a couple of new names came onto the list.

1Antonio Carrera2004A fantastic U19 season moved Antonio to the top of the list. I knew FCD had signed an Academy player and I was pretty sure it was Antonio. Turned out he had a hybrid deal. Then in spring FCD camp, he crushed it and won the FCD 3rd keeper job, so they tore up the hybrid and gave him a straight Homegrown deal.
2Anthony Ramirez2005He misses a lot of time in Mexico and US camps.
3Diego Hernandez2005Diego didn’t make the breakthrough with NTX I had expected so I moved him down a little.
4Tarik Scott2005Scott’s break-out season. He won the U17 Golden Boot in the 20-21 MLS Next Cup Playoffs. He was starting to generate a lot of talk.
5Nighte Pickering2005A prolific goal poacher at the Academy, he was getting first-team training minutes under Luchi Gonzalez but I rated him behind Scott. Pickering signed with an agent sometime in 2022 and did a JoGo, signing with Memphis 901 in August of that year.
6Julian Eyestone2006He was up to 6’6″ at 15.

I did a Next 5 names just for grins: Malachi Molina, Henry Canizalez, Ale Urzua, Kris Kelley (Yes, the kid who sued FCD), and Nolan Norris.

Antonio Carrera trains with FC Dallas, 2021. (Courtesy FC Dallas)
Antonio Carrera trains with FC Dallas, 2021. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

July 2022

This was the Homegrown list where I predicted the end of the Homegrown while still in high school. There might be exceptions but most of the time a kid who is under 18 will likely get a Next Pro deal and the club will tend to save Homegrown deals for 18 years olds and up.

And that’s basically what’s happened.

1Anthony Ramirez2005I still thought Ramirez was Class of ’23. When he does turn 18 and graduate I think he will have a boatload of options in Mexico and I think FCD should get ahead of that.
2Tarik Scott2005At this point, Scott was the guy in the Academy and I probably should have ranked him #1. Everyone was talking about him.
3Julian Eyestone2006Julian spent most of the summer of ’22 training with the first team. The writing is on the wall.
4Nolan Norris2005Nolan really amazed me with his progression I was so happy to rank him this highly. He’s been a favorite of mine since I saw him play in the Super U14s in the Dallas Cup. Signed with FCD in November of ’22.
5Diego Hernandez2005After his bad car wreck in Jan of ’22 cost him his form, I had to drop Hernandez down. While he was still really good at U19 he wasn’t what he was before. And he still wasn’t breaking in with NTX.
6Ale Urzua2006After Corcoran left FCD, Urzua became the midfield general of the 2006s and arguably their best overall field player. He signed with NTX for 2023 on what we believe to be the club’s first Hybrid deal (after Carrera’s was changed).
7Malachi Molina2006I think some observers might have been surprised to see his name on my list but this kid has bags of talent and his ceiling is really high. Very raw at this point.
FC Dallas U19 midfielder Tarik Scott scores in the MLS NEXT Cup quarterfinals match against Wake FC on June 29, 2022, at Toyota Soccer Center. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)
FC Dallas U19 midfielder Tarik Scott scores in the MLS NEXT Cup quarterfinal match against Wake FC on June 29, 2022, at Toyota Soccer Center. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)

June 2023

I skipped the winter ranking again, but this time I know why. FCD quickly signed Tarik Scott and Nolan Norris as Homegrowns for the 2023 season, pulling the trigger in mid-November before I did my winter list and, after that, there didn’t seem much point.

Also, I again started including players I want to see signed to Next Pro deals for North Texas in an attempt to bring more of an urgent timeline and imperative into play on my ranks. Perhaps creating more turnover in these lists.

1Julian Eyestone20068 starts for North Texas in ’23, reclassified to graduate early. Now at Duke. Turns 18 in April ’24. FCD has chosen to let him one and done at Duke.  I believe that if FCD doesn’t get him signed this January they will miss out.
2Diego Hernandez2005Regained his form, excels at NTX, and is named May’s MLS NEXT Pro Rising Star of the Month. Best overall player in the Academy for the 3rd season running. FCD let him go to Furman.
3Diego Pepi2004After bursting onto the 19 scene this February post-coaching change and making his NTX debut, I said I wanted Pepi signed to an NTX deal. Which he did on August 21, 2023.
4Anthony Ramirez2005I lowered him a bit down the rankings after finding out he’s a December kid and won’t graduate high school till May ’24.  (Signing urgency factor!) He
is playing bigger minutes for NTX this year.
5Malachi Molina2006Still high on my list as he continues to progress. He’s Jamaica’s first-choice U17 RB and has made his NTX debut. Doesn’t graduate high school until May of 2025.

I brought back a Next 5 again for fun and discussion: Nayrobi Vargas, Caleb Swann, Jared Salazar, Michael Cortellessa, and Bryce Outman.

Can’t wait for the next one.


  1. What are the chances that Paes is sold and we start next year with Antonio Carrera fighting for the starting gig and Eyestone getting the minutes at North Texas after a semester at Duke?

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