It’s not quite time for a full season review, but I really wanted to check up on how one of the most talented youth prospects to come out of the FC Dallas academy, Paxton Pomykal, is performing so far this year.
One thing to remember is this is Paxton’s year 2 off an injury that kept him out of most of the 2020 season. So far, he has remained healthy for most of the season and was able to return to his midfield role. This is good news for FC Dallas fans everywhere – hopefully, the soccer gods will continue to bless us.
Anyways, let’s jump into the stats:
Slowing the Opposition
Pressure, pressure, pressure.
When I watch Paxton’s game, one thing that stands out is his relentless effort on the pitch. His continuous harassment of any opponent who dares touch the ball is a dangerous weapon. It should be no surprise he is in the 76th percentile of pressures among MLS midfielders this season.
A concern one may have when looking at this chart is the dropping volume of pressures and success. However, I think game-state explains most of this – FC Dallas has been in “protect the lead” mode for their most recent 6 matches.
Still, not going the full 90 minutes in the three most recent matches makes me wonder if fatigue is starting to somewhat set in. It’s also possible Nico is simply saving one of his star players for the last stretch.
In lieu of successful pressures, Paxton has seen an uptick in successful tackles and interceptions. One thing Paxton excels at is last-ditch tackles in the defensive third.
He is in the 84th percentile of Defensive Third Tackles among MLS midfielders, which can provide tremendous value when he pulls off stretching plays like this:
While Paxton’s defensive work rate is off the charts, I do sometimes think it can be a detriment. The insatiable desire to dispossess opponents himself means he is often not as well-positioned to collect loose balls.
His ball recoveries / 90 puts him in only the 8th percentile among MLS midfielders, and the rest of the squad doesn’t exactly pick up the slack. New midfield partner, Sebastian Lletget, recovers the ball at an even lower rate than Paxton.
Focus from Los Toros on taking advantage of loose balls that Paxton’s pressure and tackling create will be key to defensive success in the playoffs.
Advancing the Play
One of the biggest improvements to be seen in Paxton’s game this season is his passing ability. You can see a steady uptick in not only his volume of passing but also his completion percentage.
It is important, though, to see Paxton not just passing simple balls, but advancing play in meaningful ways. While he has dipped below average at times, he has managed to get Passes into the Penalty Area at a rate that puts him in the 84th percentile among MLS midfielders.
His ability to move the ball forward progressively with his passing, however, still leaves a bit to be desired. He completes medium to long passes at a decent rate, but he does not attempt such passes often.
Paxton’s rate of Progressive Passes / 90 in the last five matches has increased, so one must hope this trend will continue and leads to more attacking opportunities for the front three of FC Dallas.
While his game does not cut through opposing defenses with pinpoint passes, Paxton demonstrates a really strong ability to move the ball forward. He averages 2.14 Carries into the Final Third / 90, which puts him in the 92nd! percentile among all MLS midfielders.
Not only does Pomykal carry the ball forward at such a high rate, but he also does so efficiently as well. Though he has had spells of not protecting the ball well enough (Matchday 1 where he coughed it up 5 times and the middle stretch of the season shown above), Paxton protects the ball quite well for a player who plunges forward as often as he does.
Being able to carry the ball so well leads to stats like Paxton being in the 92nd percentile of Fouls Drawn / 90 among MLS midfielders. When the young midfielder is able to get forward, this team tends to find a lot of success.
A shortcoming that is preventing Paxton from taking the leap to being an MLS XI-caliber player is his final product.
As important as he is to FC Dallas, he’s not managed to find himself on the scoresheet and has logged only 2 assists this season. He has found some other ways to contribute to shots and goals for this squad, though.
His Goal-Creating Actions / 90 puts him in the 80th percentile among MLS midfielders. Some of the most impactful contributions that have set up goals have been from his dribbling and defensive actions.
You can see a drop-off around the time Sebastian Lletget joined the squad, but this is most likely due to the changing role of Pomykal to a deeper linking 8 style.
The hope is that Pomykal can ramp those contributions back up from this slightly less advanced role while playing alongside Lletget.
The Grade so Far
Anyone who watches Paxton Pomykal play can see the underlying talent and heart that he brings to a team. He has been a key player in the success of FC Dallas this season and continues to hone his craft.
His pairing with Sebastian Lletget is one to watch as the MLS regular season comes to a finish. FC Dallas’s quest to host a home playoff match hinges on it. The dynamism between the two could help provide Jesus Ferreira, Paul Arriola, and Alan Velasco with more opportunities to wreak havoc.
Overall, I would give Paxton Pomykal a grade of an A- so far this season. He is a special player, and though his immense potential suggests he has more to give, one must be quite happy with the show he is putting on in the 2022 season.
How does he compare to his numbers in 2019 (esp July 4 and earlier if you can get the splits)? I haven’t subjectively felt that he’s reached that level again, but that’s the beauty of data – not subject to the biases of nostalgic memory. 🙂
Great question. Overall, his passing efficiency is around the same and his dribbling volume/efficiency is a bit lower. But his defensive efficiency + actions are up since then.
It’s tough to definitively say it’s due to his play, because in 2019 he played a more offensive role + had superior attacking fullbacks in Hollingshead and Cannon. I wish I had my hands on some more advanced data like the sprint speeds, ground covered, etc that may tell us more about how well he’s recovered physically from injury, but with what we have, I would say he’s at least back to the same player he was.
That does unfortunately mean he lost out on a year or two of development, but hopefully he can continue to improve, and he may show some greater offensive efficiency as Nico gets more comfortable pushing midfielders further forward.