The MLS SuperDraft is on Wednesday. One of the tools FC Dallas has used over the last few years is the signing of college Homegrowns.
FCD has been successful in these signings with underclassmen like Reggie Cannon or Brandon Servania and seniors like Eddie Munjoma and Kris Reaves. Granted, greater success with the former than the latter.
So are there any former FC Dallas Academy kids in college right now, either underclassmen or seniors, that look worthy of a Homegrown deal for this season?
A Homegrown Wildcard
If you have been listening to our podcast you will know there were some big changes this year in how Homegrown territories work with the Academies. The important info here is that while for most players the territory rule has gone away, each MLS club is able to tag a certain number of local players from outside their Academy as Homegrown claims.
The wildcard is how and when that rule change is being implemented. Was it retroactively applied?
I have been hearing stories that MLS clubs have been able to go back and retroactively tag players already in college. At first, I was told it was just kids from last Academy season but now there are stories that, perhaps, it’s this way for all the kids still in college.
So, if these tagging stories are true, I have a Homegrown candidate for you. One that didn’t play for FC Dallas but rather for Solar SC.
Jackson Castro – Creighton, Midfield
Sophomore, 5’8″, 150 lbs, Plano, Texas
Jackson is the son of one of Solar’s coaches Diego Jackson. According to Jackson’s bio, Diego had an 11-year pro career in the Chilean League, Bundesliga, and American leagues. Jackson’s uncle played for Indiana and then in the MISL.
As a freshman, Jackson made 9 starts in 17 games with a goal and an assist but broke out big time this year for the NCAA Semi-Finalists with 10 goals and 8 assists in 20 starts (22 games) to earn a 2nd Team BIG EAST. Jackson might have gotten even more attention if not for his Herman Candidate and BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year winnowing teammate Duncan McGuire who as a junior smashed 23 goals.
Jackson Castro has the family genes, the Academy pedigree, a father/coach, and the college production combo worth a look. The college numbers are the kind of free-8 stats that might make a good young backup for Sebastian Lletget.
If, and it’s a BIG if, FC Dallas has been able to retro-tag kids locally from outside their Academy.
Other Potential FC Dallas Homegrown
I have two players in the college ranks that I have long expected to be FCD Homegrowns. I still expect them to be. As for why each isn’t yet, the story is different.
Kevin Bonilla – Portland, Right Back
Sophomore, 5’8″, 158 lbs, Dallas, Texas.
I thought Bonilla was ripe for a Homegrown signing while as an Academy player he started the second half of 2019 for North Texas SC helping them to a title (13 starts in 14 games). Then during Covid in 2020 when he skipped a year of college ball, Bonilla came back and again played in 9 NTX games with 5 starts. Along the way, he was playing for the US U20s and even got some U23 camp time.
Bonilla is now two seasons into his college career at Portland with 35 starts and 37 games played. 2021 TopDrawerSoccer Freshman Best XI First Team and the College Soccer News All-Freshmen Third Team. 2022 All-WCC 2nd Team.
The only reason I can come up with as to why he hasn’t been signed to a Homegrown deal… is that FCD just doesn’t rate him. Which I find hard to understand. He’s not Bryan Reynolds, but I think the kid’s got game.
Obviously, the potential signing of Brazilian right back Geovane Jesus from Cruzeiro makes a Bonilla signing even less likely.
Diego Letayf – Georgetown, Holding Mid
Freshman, 5’10”, 170 lbs, Southlake, Texas.
I was so high on this kid in the Academy, smoothest 6 I’ve ever seen. Almost never had to tackle, he was always in the right place and was quality with the ball. He jumped from the Academy to the Tigres U20 team.
Post-Covid he showed up at Georgetown to play soccer. 19 starts in 20 games played for the 2022 BIG EAST Champs (2nd lowest GAA in BIG EAST). Letayf wasn’t named to any BIG EAST teams but the center back behind him and the mid in front of him were named BIG EAST Defender and Offensive Players of the Year.
Coincidence? Sure, maybe. But he’s a smooth, quiet, skilled holding mid, a position that doesn’t attract attention. So I’m going with no, not a coincidence.
There are other players to watch in the future. There’s no sense cluttering up this space with long-winded bios for now but here are some names in no particular order.
- Malik Henry-Scott (Tulsa, Junior, Forward)
- Grady Easton (St Louis, Sophomore, Center Back)
- Josh Ramsey (Notre Dame, Sophomore, Center Back)
- Slade Starnes (Furman, Freshman, Center Back)
- Seth Wilson (Akron, Freshman, Goalkeeper)
- Cristian Escribano (Wake Forest, Right Back, RS Sophomore)
While FCD signing any of them would be a slight surprise, none would be outright shocking as these kids are all pretty good. FCD needs center backs specifically and there are three of them on this list.
Later Round Picks for North Texas
FC Dallas is picking 24th in the 2023 SuperDraft on Wednesday. At that stage of the draft, expect FCD to be looking for a Tsiki Ntsabeleng-like diamond in the rough. Could FCD trade up? Sure, they usually have more $AM lying around than most other teams. If there’s something they love there then yeah, go for it.
But after the first round, you’re generally looking at picks for North Texas SC. Picks to develop. FCD sometimes likes to grab guys from their own Academy in these later spots like left back Holland Rula last year.
Side note: Rula took his extra year of eligibility and played a graduate season at High Point. He could, in theory, still report to FCD/NTX this spring as they hold his MLS draft rights through the end of 2023.
So, any senior names to keep an eye on?
Yes, although in the covid era any of them might have an extra year to play with.
Jalen James – Campbell, Left Wing
RS Senior, 5’10”, 150 lbs, Grand Prairie, Texas
A left winger with the pace to destroy people since he was in the Academy. Former US U15. Injuries held him back a little: a medical redshirt in 2018 and injured again in 2021.
When he wasn’t hurt, he was pretty dang good with 20 goals and 8 assists over 60 games and 49 starts. 2019 Big South All-Freshman Team, 2020 & 2022 Big South 1st Team. Most importantly, healthy all of 2022 when he led the Big South in “points” (goals 2 pts assists 1 pt) per game at 1.12.
He’s also played for Mississippi Brilla and Tormenta SC during the summers.
Heck, I don’t think FCD should wait for the 3rd Round to grab James. Take him in the 2nd.
Reed Berry – Oral Roberts, Forward
Senior, 5’11”, [weight unlisted], Allen, Texas.
Not an Academy player, but rather from FCD Premier. Berry (probably) finishes his Oral Roberts career with 23 goals and 17 assists in 60 games and 56 starts. That’s some solid production even if it’s in the Summit League. 2019 Summit League Newcomer of the Year and 3-Time Summit League First Team ever since. That’s worth a shot in the draft later rounds.
He also played some in the Roja League with Premier Legends.
Michael Collodi – Columbia, Goalkeeper
Senior, 6’0″, 205 lbs, Frisco, Texas.
A touch shorter than ideal but a very athletic keeper, Collodi is a good shot-stopper who gives off Nick Rimando-type vibes. Technically a senior at Columbia, though the Bulldogs didn’t play in 2020 (Covid) so I’m pretty sure he has a year of eligibility left if he wants it.
Former US U14 and U16. Three-year starter with 44 starts and 1 sub appearance. Two-time All-Ivy Honorable Mention. Don’t let the 1.49 Career GAA fool you, Columbia isn’t that good at soccer but that isn’t Collodi’s fault. One goes to Columbia for education, not soccer.
Over the years Collodi has popped back into Dallas to train with North Texas and FC Dallas. Another former FCD player who surfaced in the Roja league with Premier Legends.
Update: I’m told Collodi will play his final season this fall.
That’s my list. I’m sure someone will tell me if they think there is a player I missed.