When a club rolls out an investment-in-youth policy and a “play the kids” mantra, it’s with the hope that some of the kids mature and become the core of the team. In short, the club wants the young players to be among the best players.
That’s exactly what has happened with FC Dallas. Paxton Pomykal, Jesus Ferreira, and Reggie Cannon have become vital, go-to starters for Coach Luchi Gonzalez. You could perhaps even include 17-year-old right back Bryan Reynolds who has shown well of late and should get an extended run with Cannon at the Gold Cup.
Unfortunately, the growth of these players has created a small problem for FC Dallas. A good problem – in some ways, because it is what the club wanted – but a problem none the less.
You see all four of those players – Pomykal, Ferreira, Cannon, and Reynolds – are on the final year of their original MLS Homegrown contract as all four were originally signed for the 2017 season.
While every deal can be different, generally speaking, initial MLS Homegrown contracts are usually three years long with two option years. Pomykal confirmed his contract was ending in this article by Sam Stejskal. Stejskal later tweeted a correction, likely given to him by MLS or FCD, that the club has two option years. So both are correct, Pomykal’s deal is ending, but the club can extend it if they chose to do so.
Reggie Cannon later confirmed for me directly that he’s in the exact same contract situation as Pomykal. And I’ve subsequently confirmed with some sources that the same is true of Ferreira and Reynolds.
Now, FC Dallas could, of course, just pick up the option year on all four players. Yes, the players signed a contract with the option. Picking up the option would be 100% within the club’s rights. It probably even includes a raise of some kind.
But I’m going to use this space to give you a couple of reasons why I think FCD should not pick up the options.
First, a player should be paid for their value. The FCD salary list came out this week – making it a good time for me to write this commentary – and you can see on there some players in the top half of the roster getting paid a fair chunk of money that perhaps aren’t really performing. If a player is performing, the compensation should match it. FCD is relying on and building around these young players and should pay them accordingly.
Second, if you don’t pay them according to their value the player can become… upset. Upset players sometimes don’t play well because they are mad, depressed, or unmotivated. Upset players hold out. Upset players get their agent to find them a new place to play. Upset players go to Turkey and don’t come back. Upset players can make life annoying for the club and coaches.
Third, and probably most importantly, the Hunts have stated their desire to win an MLS Cup with Homegrowns. They probably aren’t going to do that with 18 to 20-year-olds. FC Dallas needs to keep these players until they are 24 or 25 to win something. If FCD picks up these four options, as I just mentioned potentially upsetting said players, then why would any of the four re-sign in two more years when their contract options run out? If FCD treats them poorly, at least poorly in the player’s mindset, the players will be much more likely to walk away.
And fourth, if FCD picks up below value options, low balls, and/or underpays their own Academy players when it’s time for their second deal, they will undermine the club’s own ability to sign future Homegrowns.
Think of it from the point of view of any Academy kid. Initial Homegrown deal? “Yes, that sounds lovely… but if I become a key starter are you still going to pay me like a kid right out of the Academy?”
FCD needs to compensate a starter like a starter. That will incentivize their own Academy program. That will make it more likely to get kids to sign. “If I play well and I become a starter, I will get paid down the line.” Set the precedent of rewarding excellent play of your own Academy players.
These four new contract deals don’t need to happen today, I’m not suggesting FCD sign them this week. But FCD should over the back half of the season begin to hold talks with all four players’ representation. Probably before the end of the year – depending on health and continued performance – you want to get all four redone on new contracts.
So what should FCD pay these guys?
Let’s talk about that, one at a time. I’m going to make some reasonable contract suggestions that reward these four young players and fit them into what I think are appropriate slots on the current salary list without breaking the FCD salary structure.
In other words, here comes the deep dive soccer dork part.
Over the first half of the season, Pomykal has arguably been the team’s MVP. He’s gotten his name written in pen on the lineup sheet. He’s for sure the team’s best creative force and difference maker and Coach Gonzalez has a large level of trust in him. And Pomykal plays a position that is very expensive to fill with a foreign player signing.
Pomykal is also the US U20 captain and should, I think, be involved in the U23 team this next cycle and potentially the senior team sometime later this year. Maybe January 2020 camp?
MLS contracts, again, in general teams, reward foreign free agent signings. They reward international experience, particularly world cup players, and overall general veteran experience. Front line, creative, attacking players get paid more than defenders. Central players get more than wingers. Vets get more than kids.
So take a look back at the 2019 FC Dallas salaries and you can see based on his age, experience, international future, and position, just about where Pomykal should fit in. Let me throw a couple of base salary numbers at you.
Bryan Acosta – $600k – 25 years old.Michael Barrios – $500k – 28 years old.Santiago Mosquera – $500k – 24 years old.Pablo Aranguiz – $406k – 22 years old.
So if Pomykal continues his excellent play this season, then I see a deal right around the neighborhood of the latter two in that list. He is outplaying both of them but is younger and less experienced. A new four-year deal, starting at around $400, maybe $450k, in 2020, and going up by $100k a year seems reasonable.
Pomykal is 19 and won’t turn 20 in until December. In four seasons in my scenario, he would be 23 and on a salary of around $700k which would make sense for an attacking playmaker hopefully competing for league awards and the US National Team. Throw on a team option for a 5th season with a nice bump – $900k maybe? – and 23 or 24 makes a perfect time for Pomykal to be sold at his max value. Or get paid some serious phat stacks by FCD as their MVP.
Spend the next 4 season with the team built around him, probably as one of the team’s captains even at a young age, and see where that takes Pomykal and the club.
Unfortunately for Cannon, he plays a position that is lower down on the MLS salary value list. Plus Bryan Reynolds is really starting to show and there’s a kid named Kevin Bonilla in the Academy coming on.
Cannon is in the national team pool though and has been called into the Gold Cup. He’s likely got some club’s eyeing him. At 21 he’s slightly older than Pomykal. Cannon has also produced for a second season now while the others on this list are getting it done for half a single season.
Let’s throw out a couple of numbers for comparison.
Ryan Hollingshead – $175k – 28 years oldGraham Zusi – $635k – 32 years oldZarek Valentin – $160k – 27 years old.Marcos Pedroso – $375k – 25 years old. Nick Lima – $200k – 24 years old.
For Cannon, I think it makes perfect sense for him to be above Hollingshead, who while versatile and older, isn’t going to make the national team. Cannon doesn’t have Zusi’s experience and resume yet. Four-time MLS All-Star, two-time MLS Best XI, KC MVP, and he was a game dominating central midfield 8… so he gets paid like it.
So I’ll predict something about $200k, maybe $225k, per year and going up by $25k per year. Again a four-year deal. Maybe add a bump for a team option 5th season? At the end of the 2024 season, Cannon will 25. That’s again a terrific time to sell if the stock is high.
Because there is talent behind him in the pipe, I feel Cannon is the most likely of these four to get sold.
As a 9, Ferreira also plays a high demand, high dollar position. It’s also a position with the most direct measurable: goals. So while he’s had a good year and is the current starter he does only have four goals at this time. Sure, service is part of that. Over the back half of the season getting to 10 goals would make a big statement as to his value.
He also has a ton of potential as Ferreira won’t turn 19 until December. Like Cannon, he’s got a player with massive potential coming behind him like a train, Ricardo Pepi. It may be that Ferreira is a winger, off-striker, or an attacking mid in a season or two. Those are still high-value positions, of course. Some more numbers.
Zdenek Ondrasek – $400k – 30 years oldDom Badji – $200k – 26 years oldCristian Colman – $500k – 25 years oldDom Dwyer – $1.3 Mil – 28 years oldJordan Morris – $499k – 24 years old
As usual, experience matters. Senior international caps matter. Proven goal scoring records – Dwyer’s 22 goal season and a 16, 13, and 12-goal seasons – matter. So if the young Ferreira can keep producing, perhaps get that 10+ goal season. then there’s a solid deal waiting.
I’d start him around Badji’s $200k and go up by $25k a year. Perhaps some goal incentives could be in there as well. Yes, he’s outplayed Badji this year so far but Badji has more MLS experience and has converted some goals in his MLS career. It’s not like Ferreira has blown Badji out of the water nor has he done it for more than half a season. So while Ferreira’s younger, he’s in the same ballpark as Badji because he is a more clinical finisher.
Since Ferreira is just 18 those numbers I just listed make sense to me. Another four-year deal, I would think, as Ferreira will be 22 when the 2024 season ends. Depending on his scoring record he might really cash in on that next deal.
Reynolds has the least claim to make in terms of current performance although he has shown some good progress. It’s his upside that still has tremendous value. He’ll be 18 this month and could have another season with the U19s, that’s how young he is. But his size (6’3″), athleticism, pace, and ball skill give him a huge ceiling. Maybe the highest ceiling of the four on this list.
Reynolds has a chance to start for FCD this month with Cannon at the Gold Cup and he might get more time if Cannon gets into the Olympic (U23) team mix. Reynolds himself should have his eye on the 2021 U20 World Cup.
Regardless of PT, Reynolds value at this point is mostly going to be in his potential. Does FCD plan to sell him? He’s already got club’s tracking him. Do they plan to sell Cannon and start Reynolds? Is there a loan potentially for Reynolds if Cannon stays? Reynolds has already passed up what he can get from North Texas I think.
Here are some FCD comparables.
Brandon Servania – $160k – 20 years oldEma Twumasi – $150k – 22 years oldFrancis Atuahene – $135k – 23 years old
Reynolds current $70K deal is too low for a player with this much potential and now demonstrated usefulness in MLS. He can play wing and as a 9 as well as his nominal right back spot.
I’d look to give him a new deal at $150k with $20k bumps. But I’d shoot for another three year deal with an option instead of four. Perhaps offer a buyout clause as an incentive? I think the shorter deal with a buyout might appeal to Reynolds who probably will want an out if he’s still behind Cannon in a couple of years.
Of if Cannon is sold a new deal could come in to reflect Reynolds hypothetical status as the new starter.
If you want to look ahead a little bit, although I haven’t confirmed three-year deals for them, their original (hypothetical) three-year deals end for…Brandon Servania – after 2020Thomas Roberts – after 2021Edwin Cerrillo – after 2021Dante Sealy – after 2021
Sweet. A 2021 bubble to look forward to.