It’s a new era not just for FC Dallas in 2022, but also for the development squad, North Texas Soccer Club.
Playing in the inaugural season of MLS Next Pro, experienced player and coach Pa-Modou Kah is tasked as the new head coach while leading his squad of young professionals in year four of North Texas SC’s history.
Similar to his predecessor Eric Quill, Coach Pa is no stranger to the professional game, being a former player himself. The former Norwegian international defender has experience in both Europe and MLS allowing him to provide special insight into subtleties that come with being a professional soccer player.
“I made my debut as a 16-year-old and seeing these young players, you try to put them in a state of mind where they can understand what it takes, you try to paint the picture rather than telling them what to do,” Kah explained. “You have to allow them to grow and make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. For me, all my teaching is talking to them, being a communicator, and also allowing them to see things and do things so we can teach them as a human being and a player. Obviously, playing helped because you can foresee situations and you can step in and help a bit.”
With a squad as young as North Texas, Kah has the added task of building a competitive team after a significant roster overhaul and guiding young professionals through the demands of a year-long season. He doesn’t face this challenge alone, though, and has help from North Texas’ longest-tenured player and captain Derek Waldeck.
“I have a responsibility to hold myself to high standards and secondly, my role is to help coach and nurture the guys around me and to help teach them how to be successful as a professional and how to win games,” Waldeck said. “We have to go out week-in and week-out to compete and lift a trophy at the end of the season.”
With any new coach, one of the first questions they are constantly bombarded with is “what will your team look and play like?” Kah wants his team to quickly come together as a team for the first game while also developing the player and person on the field.
“We want to play purposeful football and dominate with and without the ball,” Kah said of his team style. “When we don’t have it [the ball] we want to be on the front foot defending and when we do have it [the ball] we want to play football to create opportunities. If they score, then we score too.”
The “New Era” mantra around FC Dallas does spill over to the second team, North Texas SC has brought in an influx of players both from the FC Dallas Academy and abroad with one of the more notable players coming from FC Bayern’s World Squad, Jose Mulato.
The initial impression around North Texas SC is one filled with excitement and hope. As explained by North Texas SC General Manager Matt Denny on the DTID: The Official FC Dallas Podcast, the club believes they have a competitive squad that can compete for the title.
It does help to have a coach like Pa-Modou Kah at the helms, a person who has an infectious personality and can relate to a person as a human while also instilling a purposeful and demanding environment in training.
“Pa is incredible, he came in right away with so much charisma and so much energy,” Waldeck said of his coach. “It was very clear that we wanted to be a coach that is supportive and caring but demands a lot of us. He’s been very clear on his expectations and standards, he’s explained very clearly what his standards and style are going to be and who we are going to be as a team. I think that is super valuable for us and I’m excited to be getting the season going and playing for him.”
In the Kah-era, the expectation hasn’t changed for North Texas SC since the first season. Kah wants to see his team grow but also made every effort to become the inaugural champions.
“We always have expectations and we talk about the things that we want to see,” Kah said. “For me, it is the growth of the human being, therefore, also the growth of the football player. We are looking into the aspects of the growth of human beings because they are so young in the professional environment and they have to understand what it takes. Secondly, it is the mindset to always win.”
Derek Waldeck echoed the same sentiments as his coach stating, “The end goal is obviously to be champions at the end of the year. We talk about it during the preseason but the day-to-day, it’s about the group and growing as a group a little bit each day. For me, I would love to add more goals and assists and get up on the score sheet as a higher-up midfield this year.”
North Texas SC begins the 24 game season at home against Minnesota United FC 2, at Choctaw Stadium, on Saturday, March 26, at 8 PM Central.
What is the team hoping for in their first game? Waldeck simply stated, “Three-points, plain and simple. It’s the best way to start the season and to have a dominant performance.”