The FCD Academy Hot List – Dec 2021

It’s been more than a while since I last did an FCD Academy Hot List. Quite frankly the limited amount of news, results, and game info coming out of MLS Next has made it tough to do this list as often as I wanted.

But the 2021-22 MLS Next season is well underway, MLS Next Pro is launching, the North Texas SC season is right around the corner, and I actually got to watch some FC Dallas Academy games this month.  That latter of which is going to have a large impact on this December Hot List.

Remember this is the Hot List. It’s not a prospect ranking or a list of who I think will be a Homegrowns (although those can be factors). Rather this list is a bunch of names being talked about, players doing things, hype, chatter, or guys I saw in person that got me hyped or made me change my thinking on them.

Really it’s just whoever the heck I feel like listing.

On with the list.

The Dec 2021 FCD Academy Hot List

1. Antonio Carrera – U19 Goalkeeper, 2004 (Previously Ranked #3)

Carrera spent the bulk of the fall training with FC Dallas’s first team every day and made the North Texas SC bench a couple of times ahead of Colin Shutler who was under contract. For this and other reasons, I expect Carrera to sign some kind of pro deal with the organization this winter. MLS, MLS Next Pro, combo deal… something. And soonish.

FC Dallas U17 goalie Antonio Carrera dives for the ball in warmups before the MLS Next Cup quarterfinals match at Toyota Soccer Center. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)

2. Antony Ramirez – U17 Wing or Attacking Mid, 2005 (Previously Ranked #5)

The player I would most like to see signed to a Homegrown contract, ASAP.  Although I’m not sure the club feels as I do. Ramirez continues to get camp after camp for Mexico and has gone from U16 to U17, and most recently U18. For FCD us usually plays as a false wing. At least when I’ve seen him anyway.  He’s also US eligible and was a US U15.

3. Diego Hernandez – U19 Central Mid, 2005 (Previously Ranked #4)

Even though he’s U17 in age, Hernandez is, for me – and this was reinforced in the recent game viewing – the best player in the U19s.  He’s the player closest to being able to help FC Dallas today even though he’s still a U17 and at just 16 he will need a season or two with North Texas SC.  He completely dominated the game against Rio Grande Valley playing as a 6, even scoring twice.  In my mind, he’s a better 8 than 6. He should be with NTX full time, in my opinion. He’s wearing #6 with the U19s in this video.

4. Nayrobi Vargas – U17 Forward, 2006 (Previously Unranked)

Vargas is the next Grown Ass Man in the Academy (GAM 3.0). He’s still inconstant, but when he’s on – oh my, is he exciting.  I was (figuratively) drooling on myself watching him play this last time. How high he has jumped (lol, see pic) on this list should tell you how hyped I am. There is massive upside here. Vargas is just in his first season as a U17, so there’s no rush but keep a close watch as this name could become explosive… if – big if – he figures it all out.  

FC Dallas U17 Nyrobi Vargas (#34) connects with a header in the MLS Next matchup against RGV FC, December 11, 2021. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)

5. Santiago Ferreira – U19 Central Mid, 2004 (Previously #10)

One of the biggest climbers on my Academy prospect boards, Santi went from the “outside” to “has a shot” in under a year.  That’s a big climb and quintessential hot list material. If that trajectory continues, he may yet redeem the 2004 class in terms of field players. He made an NTX bench toward the end of 2021 due to positional needs, availability (aka being Covid free), and as a reward for his progression and work.

Santiago Ferreira takes on multiple defenders vs Rio Grande Valley, December 11, 2021. (Christian Oseguera, 3rd Degree)

6. Julian Eyestone – U17 Goalkeeper, 2006 (Previously Ranked #7)

The only FCD U17 who got called into the USYNT U17 team in November and that keeps him on the hot list.  The 6’6” keeper is just 15 and is being heavily scouted by clubs from all over the world.  I would probably have put him higher on this list if he had touched the ball more than one time in the half I watched him play against RGV.  He’s also played with the FCD U19s a couple of times and trained with North Texas.

Julian Eyestone throws the ball to a teammate, November 14, 2021. (Courtesy Eyestone Family)

7. Kevin Kelley – U17 Wing, 2005 (Previously Unranked)

There are no MLS Next stats out there that I can find, but according to his Instagram (I’ll take him at his word), Kevin has 8 goals in 10 games (he was banged up most of last season).  Both Kelley brothers (Kris made the list last time) have a ton of talent and can tear apart most MLS Next defenses.  There is lots of room for improvement in team tactical concepts but the individual skill is undeniable. 

Kevin Kelley. (Courtesy Kevin Kelley Instagram)

8. Jared Salazar – U17 Attacking Mid, 2006 (Previously Unranked)

A string-puller and the creative mid in the FC Dallas U17 side, Salazar is about the most left-footed player I’ve ever seen.  An FC Dallas coach, who will remain nameless, was signing this kid’s praises to me recently and that gets him into the hot list. Salazar, who is a pure 10-type player, has been working hard on the defensive side of his game and is rapidly improving in that regard. That’s going to be really important for his pro-prospects as the all-offense 10s are vanishing in favor of the two-way attackers who can press and defend.

Jared Salazar (10) splits two defenders in the Dallas Cup U15 final between FC Dallas U15 Academy and SD Surf ECNL 2006. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)

9. Tate Jones – U17 Center Back, 2006 (Previously Unranked)

Jones has just recently joined FC Dallas from the Seattle area and as a center back prospect, he has me intrigued.  I’ve only seen him this one time so I’m taking the performance with a large grain of salt – particularly given the level of competition. I saw a lot of tools though that could make for a really nice player. Add in a couple of reports I got and I want to see a lot more of this kid. (and I need to get a much better pic than the one I found on his Instagram.)

Tate Jones. (Courtesy Tate Jones Instagram)

10. Jeyden Arboleda – U15 Attacking Mid, 2007 (Previously Unranked)

Even though he didn’t start in the U15 game I watched, Jeyden remains the best pure player in the current u15s for me. Yes, there are other interesting players there too, but Arboleda changes the game when he enters. He’s playing at a level above the game. The problem? He’s tiny. Yes, it is possible to be too small for MLS.  I’m not worried about it yet, though, as he’s just 14 (‘ish, I don’t know his exact age). But this kid is a legit baller.

FC Dallas U15 midfielder Jeyden Arboleda (#10) brings down the ball in the MLS Next matchup against RGV FC, December 11, 2021. (Daniel McCullough, 3rd Degree)

That’s the list for this outing.

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