Based on a couple of conversations I’ve had, I think North Texas SC may be a bit more developmental in nature in 2023 than in previous seasons. The implication is, you might see a small shift to more Academy presence this year.
Short version as to why? MLS Next Pro just isn’t as good as USL-1. Most all the MLS teams treated it like a U23 or U20 league. Until MNP improves, FCD will slide toward that conceptually.
But you guys know I like to make lists.
Since FCD camp starts Friday and North Texas won’t be far behind, I decided to try and predict who I think might be involved with NTXSC this year from the FCD Academy.
NTX has five players under contract but no coach. So this list is obviously not to be taken as gospel or anything like that. The club’s roster could change massively. NTX held a bunch of local tryouts this winter. Not to mention players coming down from FC Dallas and/or loan-outs that will obviously factor in as well.
Let’s do this by position
Julian Eyestone (2006)
This one is a no-brainer even though he’s a U17. He’s the next big-time keeper out of the Academy and is heading to Duke this fall… Unless something else happens first, like a Homegrown deal.
I would expect Antonio Carrera to get the bulk of the starts this year at North Texas again, but he will probably be missing with the US U20 team at various points. Also, the other NTX keeper from last year is gone and FCD didn’t draft one.
So Eyestone, the only Academy keeper to get pro-level PT last year with 1 MLS Next Pro game, should be Carrera’s full-time backup and start every NTX game Carrera is missing… right up until Eyestone goes to Durham this fall. (In case you missed it, Eyestone accelerated his high school graduation and graduates this year as a Junior.)
Eyestone is also in the US U17 pool so that might impact how much he’s around.
Aaron Salinas (2005)
Salinas is the FCD U19 usual starter. I’ve also seen him in first-team training a few times. He’s well-liked by FCD and is committed to Furman. I expect him to have a quality run in college. He still has lots of upside even though he’s only in the neighborhood of 6 feet tall.
With Carrera and Eyestone potentially missing with the US U20s or U17s, the door might be open for some PT for Salinas at NTX. Sending down someone like Jimmy Maurer doesn’t make a lot of sense for Next Pro unless it’s a playoff game or something.
Fabian “Chooks” Enriquez (2006)
Chooks is the U17 keeper when Eyestone is missing, which can be frequent. Salinas and Eyestone will both, probably, depart for college late this summer. Chooks might be next up at that point.
Or else NTX might need to dial up Pollo Cortes again.
Will Baker (2004)
A rare true lefty center back, Baker took a gap year after graduating high school in ’22 and played 4 games for North Texas SC with 1 start. Originally a Furman commitment, I now hear he’s now heading somewhere else this fall.
A late riser in the Academy, Baker has shown some upward, possible pro, potential. I expect him to be in the NTX mix again this spring/summer until he heads to college.
Mason Grimm (2005)
A U19 defender, Grimm made an NTX bench last year when he was playing up with the U19s (there were a lot of guys playing up last year). I recall seeing him in midfield a time or two as well playing a holding role.
Grimm’s made steady progress in the Academy and might be looking at some more NTX PT this year. As a class of ’24 he’s got another year to go too.
Malachi Molina (2006)
An FCD U17 with a recent Jamaica U17 call-up (he’s there now). Mal has played a lot on the wings but I pro-project him as a Bryan Reynolds-style modern right back. Mal got to play some right back in an FCD first-team scrimmage last year and has been in first-team training a couple of other times.
I am hopeful Collin Smith goes on loan this year (for his own development) and a fair amount of the NTX starts might go to FCD’s first-round pick Herbert Endeley – who is also being considered for right back conversion – but Molina should train with NTX and start to factor in as the season goes on.
Gabriel “Toro” Brandon (2006)
Brandon is a good leader, athlete, and defender but at 5’10” or so, any pro future isn’t likely to be at center back.
If he can figure out another position, he has a good enough all-around game to get to the NTX level. Yes, that’s a big if.
This is a deep position in the FCD org, it always has been.
Santiago Ferreira (2004)
Mostly a linking-8. 17 games with 12 starts for North Texas SC last year at all three spots in midfield while he was a U19. Ferreira is a class of 2024 though and is still playing with the U19s. I would expect him to be with NTX quite a bit again until he graduates this summer.
I don’t have him down as committing to a college in my notes but I also don’t have him on my Homegrown list. Would he do a straight NTX deal? Is there a college commitment I’m unaware of?
Jared Aguilar (2005)
The U19s holding mid, Aguilar started fives games for North Texas SC last season. He’s another player I would expect to be involved in 2023.
Aguilar has good touch and is a quality passer, with a tidy game. He needs to develop a nasty side and be more physical, perhaps get a little strong. But a player with some upside.
Ale Urzua (2006)
Urzua is a linking-8 who saw time with North Texas last year (5 games, 3 starts), his first as an FCD U17s. He also got training time with the FCD first team. He’s high on my Homegrown watch list.
Urzua is a box-to-box with a great engine who can play defense and get forward. He reminds me of Chris Cappis, although perhaps not as tall. Urzua was used last year as a holding-mid some with NTX as well.
I expect Urzua to continue to get NTX time this year while still leading the U17s.
Dylan Lacy (2005)
A free-8 in our modern terms, historically a play-making 10. He’s developed a nice two-way game.
Lacy was on the fringe of NTX last year with just 1 appearance for 3 minutes but saw a fair amount of training time while he was playing up with the U19s.
Now a U19 by age, by reports he’s been performing well and I think he could make a step forward with NTX.
Diego Hernandez (2005)
Ok, let’s be frank. At this point, I just hope he’s involved. I’ve been so high on this kid for so long as a 6 or 8.
Diego was the first 2005 to debut with North Texas back in 2020 but never got back there. Last season he played up with the U19 and in every game I watched, I thought he was their best all-around player. But the kid had a bad car accident roughly a year ago and I’m not sure he’s the same player he was.
Hernandez is committed to Furman, so perhaps some good college ball will get him back to peak play. I still think Hernandez is a baller and I’d love to see how he measures up to NTX.
Caleb Swann (2007)
A recruit this summer to FCD from Solar, Swann has for me been the best 2007 in DFW the last few years. He’s currently an FCD U16 but has started to break in with the U17s. I think a time will come later this season when he will get blooded at the Next Pro level even if it’s just a taste.
At Solar, he was a 10, but at FCD he’s learning to be that free-8. Thankfully the kid is tenacious and digs balls off players as Paxton Pomykal does. The next phase of his progression will be learning a better build-out / possession game and controlling the pace of play.
Jared Salazar (2006)
A current U17 and an attacking mid. Like every attacking mid in the organization, he’s trying to learn to play defense. He’s a great passer but he’s got a ways to go to get the two-way game. He’s also heavily left-footed rather than being balanced, although that too is improving.
He’s got talent and a high ceiling, no question, but he’s got further to go than Swann in balancing his game. If you want a Salazar comparison, consider Thomas Roberts.
Anthony Ramirez (2005)
Anthony was involved with NTX last year a fair bit in training and scrimmages but never got into a game. Usually in those environments that I witnessed he deployed as a false wing but he can also free-8.
He was gone a lot last year for Mexico and US call-ups while playing up with the FCD 19s. He’s been high on my Homegrown list for some time. He does sometimes struggle for motivation in the average academy game.
Ramirez, now a full-time U19, has the same playmaking issue as all the other 10s. Play false wing or learn to defend and play free-8. I expect to see him start to get minutes and starts this year with NTXSC.
On the upside, I found out he was born in December and is a class of ’24 so he has an extra U19 year too.
Nayrobi Vargas (2006)
Vargas is a Grown Ass Man, as we say around these parts, and a pure 9. He’s an FCD and Honduras U17. My spies say he had a better, more consistent fall season.
Consistency is the issue with Vargas. In some games he’s a world beater, in other games he looks disinterested. He can struggle against massive, strong, fast defenders even as big as he is himself… but so does everyone at that age, I suppose.
It’s only a matter of time before FCD tries him at the Next Pro level, though. And since Vargas signed with an agent already, I hope he brings his A-game.
Manny Martinez (2004)
U19 Mr. Versatility. I think I’ve seen him play all over the field.
Frankly, I’ve always considered this kid a long shot. But he just keeps grinding and working. He keeps showing up and playing above what I thought his level was.
He’s in his second year with the 19s and he keeps surprising me, so I’m not counting him out.
Keep going, kid.
Kids can change really fast at this age, rocketing up and down. I’m sure there will be someone I missed and I’m sure someone on here will be left out.