The FC Dallas highschooler Homegrown era has ended – here are seven candidates anyway

Yes, you read that headline correctly. The era of FC Dallas signing kids in high school to Homegrown deals has ended.

“Says who?”  I hear you asking.

So says FC Dallas.

Please allow me to explain before you start throwing things at me.

Both Head Coach Nico Estevez and Technical Director Andre Zanotta have stated flat out that they will be waiting to sign Homegrown players “when they can help the first team.

And the chance a kid in high school can help the first team is basically zero. Sure, when Leonel Messi 2.0 comes along, but other than that…

Let me point to the established systems in Europe. How many kids go from the U16 or U18 team straight to the European first team and totally bypass the U23s?

Very, very, very few.

A Contract Technicality?

FC Dallas doesn’t want a gaggle of 15-year-old homegrowns clogging up their MLS roster for several years like Paxton Pomykal, Jesus Ferreira, and Bryan Reynolds did. All three of whom signed at 15-16 years of age but didn’t play much more than meaningless garbage minutes for three years.

So rather than signing teenagers in high school to homegrown deals that eat up roster spots, I think FC Dallas will be pushing hard for these exceptional kids to sign hybrid/combo deals that start with North Texas SC and lead to FC Dallas. 

North Texas SC has become an important stepping stone in the progression of the most talented teenagers. Just look at the progression of Ricardo Pepi and Justin Che for examples.

Is there a large difference between signing a Homegrown deal and being loaned back to North Texas compared to signing a hybrid deal that transitions from North Texas to FC Dallas? Not all that much in my mind.

But for FC Dallas roster management, there is.

Don’t worry, FCD will still be very willing to sell all these kids for boatloads of money at 18 to 20.

The Carrera Example

As I had predicted last offseason, FCD gave Antonio Carrera a hybrid deal – 2 years with North Texas SC, and then on to FC Dallas. FCD thought at the time Carrera might need a season or two in MLS Next Pro before being able to compete for the first team.

But after Carrera had some standout performance in camp and scrimmages this spring, FCD tore up his hybrid deal and signed him to a Homegrown deal. Basically, Antonio won the 3rd keeper spot on the main roster.

In other words, they didn’t give him the Homegrown deal until he proved he could help the first team now.

On with the show.

Protect the Investment Hybrid Deal List

That’s not a sexy name, I know.

This is my list of the best of the Academy, the best of the best. There are only going to be 1 to 3 players per year this good. The cream of the crop that rise to the top. The players I want them to lock up long-term.

My list was formed by watching games and talking to people I respect. But it’s my list and my list only, and it’s formed from my own opinions. FC Dallas has their own list, I’m sure. It might be very different than mine.

1. Anthony Ramirez – 2005 (Previously #2)

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FC Dallas U17 midfielder Anthony Ramirez dribbles into the box in the MLS NEXT Showcase match against Inter Miami CF on June 27, 2022, at Toyota Soccer Center. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)

Moving up from #2 to #1 is the phenomenal talent of Mr. Anthony Ramirez.  I’ve been watching this kid since he was a U14.  He’s in the middle of a tug of war between Mexico and the US and he’s been capped by both groups since he was a U15. 

Historically a 10 – a position we’ve pointed out over and over again FCD doesn’t really use anymore – so Ramirez these days is a false wing, second striker, or free 8.

In between all the call-ups this year, Ramirez made 10 starts in 11 games for the FCD U17s scoring 5 goals (before the playoffs).  He added in 4 starts in 6 games for the U19s scoring 1 goal. He’s also participated in a bunch of training for North Texas and played in multiple scrimmages with them but has yet to debut.

Blessed with sublime touch, vision, and ball skill, Ramirez is a fantastic player – although undersized – and it may be difficult for FCD to keep him as I’m sure there are multiple Mexican clubs circling to nab him after all the Mexico YNT calls.

He does drift in and out of games when he’s not motivated, he is a kid afterall. But when he’s focused, look out.

2. Tarik Scott – 2005 (Previously #4)

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FC Dallas U19 midfielder Tarik Scott dribbles toward the endline in the MLS NEXT Cup quarterfinals match against Wake FC on June 29, 2022, at Toyota Soccer Center. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)

Up two spots and climbing fast is the dynamic Tarik Scott. I was really tempted to move him to #1 with his MLS Next Cup Playoff performance.

Scott is a very direct style winger or 9 that has only increased my belief in his upside while playing up with the U19s this year (he’s a U17 in age). He led the 19s in scoring with 6 goals in 11 starts (12 games).  Add to that 4 goals in 5 starts (6 games) when he went back down to the 17s.

Scott has size, strength, and pace but he’s also got pretty dang good feet and can hit a powerful shot.  He needs to make decisions in the box a bit quicker – something that pro coaching/training will really help with – but there’s not a defender at the Academy level that can stop him one on one.

He had a brace in his North Texas SC debut earlier this year. He’s a recent commit to Tulsa, where his brother plays.

If he hits the level I think he can get to, you’re looking at a Josh Wolff or Jeff Cunningham-type scorer.

3. Julian Eyestone – 2006 (Previously #6)

Julian Eyestone (in black) in net for FC Dallas during MLS Next play. (Courtesy Peter Eyestone)

Up to #3 is FCD’s 6’6” U17 goalkeeper, Julian Eyestone.

This just barely 16-year-old (April DOB) has everything you want to see: height and athleticism, lateral quicks, strength, fearless mind, intensity, focus, and good off-field demeanor.  He’s already being swarmed by agents and scouts from Europe. It’s going to be very difficult for FC Dallas to keep him, I think. They better have a plan ready or this kid’s gonna be snapped up.

Eyestone has had a few US U17 call-ups of late and has trained with both North Texas and the FCD first team.

Another strong keeper this close behind Carrera is a nice luxury for FC Dallas and there’s no reason to not keep both. Sign him now, he can back up Carrera with NTX next season while playing in the Academy and take over the starting NTX job in 2024 when he will turn 18.

4. Nolan Norris – 2005 (Previously Watch List)

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FC Dallas U17 defender Nolan Norris taps the ball before being fouled by the goalkeeper in the MLS NEXT Showcase match against Inter Miami CF on June 27, 2022, at Toyota Soccer Center. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)

Making a big jump into the list is my dude, Nolan Norris.

If you follow me, you will have heard me talk about him since he was 14 when he became one of my favorite players to watch. But I don’t think I’ve ever had him on my PTI list before as I wasn’t sure he was going to progress enough in size and pace to make this list… but he’s there now.

Morris is a left back blessed with a fantastic soccer brain, quality feet, a pure left foot, and great passing vision. He’s got all the tools to be a pro defender on the outside like Marco Farfan but his real upside is, for me, in the middle.  I think he’s about 6’… maybe 6’1” and I’d love to see him add another inch or two.

As I said, Norris has mostly been a left back. FCD has played him out wide and as a 6 in the Academy to develop his skill set. And now he just got his first look at center back and I want him locked up rather than go to Furman.

In the Academy, he plays both U17 and U19 and he’s playing for North Texas SC (4 games, 3 starts).

5. Diego Hernandez – 2005 (Previously #3)

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Diego Hernandez (6) wins the ball in the Dallas Cup match against Tigres UANL on April 10, 2022, at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)

Dropping down two more spots this time to #5 is FCD’s U19 field-general Diego Hernandez.

Technically he’s a U17 playing up with the 19s and he’s been, for my money, the best overall U19 player game after game (13 games, 13 starts). Hernandez recently committed to Furman.  

Hernandez is a former US U15 and dominates games as an 8 or 6. Given his in-game tenacity, he might make real nice deep playmaker but he’s going to have to develop pro habits and mentality.

Sometimes there are players who just stand out in a game because of something that’s hard to define. Hernandez is like that for me. I’ve been excited about this kid since he made his North Texas debut back in 2020. I don’t like having to drop him down.

So why did I drop him down my list for the 2nd straight time?  Well… for three reasons.

  1. FCD as an organization has a lot of 8s. Tough spot to break in.
  2. FC Dallas isn’t really giving him chances with NTXSC. No, I don’t know why. Yes, I’ve asked.
  3. He was in a serious car wreck back in January and hasn’t quite regained the same “Jenna says what” he had before. But I’m hopeful.

Sometimes the timing of life can just go really wrong for a kid. I hope this isn’t one of those cases cause I love this player.

6. Ale Urzua – 2006 (Previously Watch List)

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Ale Urzua (in grey with white long sleeves) plays defense in North Texas SC training, February 8, 2022. (Courtesy North Texas SC)

Alejandro Urzua is a tall’ish for his age, lanky linking mid. He reminds me, in style, of Paxton Pomykal but, you know, taller and skinnier… which I suppose would make him more like Chris Cappis.  Given those names, you can imagine how high I am on this kid.

Urzua is the kind of box-to-box midfielder that dominates games and eats up the ball. He pressures, checks backs, wins possession, dribbles, and distributes. He controls the pace and flow of the game.  The complete game-dominating player.

He’s recently missed some time for injury but he’s been in FC Dallas first-team training already and made his debut for North Texas SC this season.  I expect him to be the on-field leader for the U17s next year (his second season at that level) if, that is, he’s not with NTX or the 19s most of the time. He turned 16 in April.

I need a better pic of Ale playing.

7. Malachi Molina – 2006 (Previously Watch List)

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FC Dallas U17 Malachi Molina (#31) attempts the steal with a sliding tackle in the MLS Next matchup against RGV FC, December 11, 2021. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)

This one might catch people off guard as the 15-year-old Malachi Molina takes the last spot on today’s list. The reason it might be surprising is that he only started 10 of 17 games this year for the U17s.

But the kid is so explosive.

Molina is a slashing wide wing or outside back. I’ve seen him play both left and right but I believe he’s righty naturally. I’ve had this kid tagged as a future pro since I first saw him two years ago.

Mal is of the Bryan Reynolds style flying wide player. Insane verticality and ability to attack and destroy defenders on the run.  He’s a flyer and very few people can keep up with him. For me, his upside, like Reynolds, is off the charts. The downside is also huge.

He needs to find focus and get dialed in with his work rate but if it does click, man, look out.

Who Else?

Yes, I could go on.

I started writing other names down here and it occurred to me that I have like 50 players all up and down the Academy that I’m still interested in… and that started to seem silly.

I had to stop somewhere. So I’ll just go with the 7 kids here for now.

I promise that when I do this list again in 6 months – the FCD offseason, Academy mid-season – this list will have changed.

Feel free to tell me who you think belongs on the list in the comments.

2 Comments

  1. I have really liked Hernandez too, but he was pretty quiet in both Dallas Cup and Playoffs. Like you said: hangover from car wreck or struggling to influence games against higher level competition?

    Pickering’s one that has increased in my estimation in the past two months or so. Thought he was just as impactful as Scott in the playoffs (though maybe not in the same “flashes of game dominance” kind of way). Will be interesting to see how the club manages him, Scott (who I 100% think is best used as a 9), and Pablo Torre in the coming couple years.

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