The last chance to impress

FC Dallas enters the final stretch of preseason as they settle down in Florida, and the last chance to earn a place with the MLS Club. There are a few question marks heading into the Florida trip and Luchi Gonzalez gave some additional updates.

Starting with the 2020 MLS SuperDraft Picks. FC Dallas selected six players. Nkosi Burgess and Cal Jennings in the first round. Manuel Ferriol in the second, followed by Derek Waldeck in the third. A pair of fourth rounders came in the form of Anders Engebretsen and Aiden Megally.

Megally never reported to camp, and Ferriol left early. Gonzalez was able to give an update on the Spaniard on Sunday, whose professional relationship with FC Dallas may not be over just yet.

“Manu had a visa issue yet to go back to Spain,” said Gonzalez. “We’re in touch with him and his agent. There’s been no final decision but there’s been communication.”

FC Dallas SuperDraft pick Manuel Ferriol awaits a pass during a drill in the opening practice of the 2020 FC Dallas preseason (Dan Crooke)

Ferriol struck me as the most technical of the draft picks, and probably the leading candidate a couple of weeks in. A midfielder than can play any of the three main central roles is an asset, and he could be an intriguing project if they’re able to bring him back over.

Anders Engebretsen and Derek Waldeck were both picked up by North Texas SC last week. The latter has had some solid FC Dallas minutes and practice reps. He’s an intelligent player who needs to perhaps bring the physical aspect of his game up to meet what he sees in front of him. As Buzz reported from North Texas SC practice, Waldeck is in Florida with the first team. Engebretsen looks like a decent winger to develop but I’m not sure I see him making an MLS roster.

Earlier this week FC Dallas signed Nkosi Burgess as expected.

Burgess’ rise has been a real joy to watch. After a first session where there were a few misplaced passes from a player who was visibly distraught, we’ve seen Burgess’ passing game grow at a rapid rate along with an MLS-level defensive game. Incidentally in that first session I was able to see the quality of Luchi Gonzalez’s coaching and character as he dealt with Burgess. He’s going to be dominant in USL-1 assuming he’s on loan to North Texas SC through parts of the year.

That leaves just one. Cal Jennings

FC Dallas SuperDraft pick Cal Jennings during the opening practice of the 2020 FC Dallas preseason (Dan Crooke)

Jennings’ situation is a tough read. On the surface he’s playing in his existing cleats – which means FC Dallas/adidas hasn’t dealt out the usual sets of adidas boots you see new players get when they’re looking likely for a deal.

He’s a physically gifted player, but does he have to show that he’s not one-dimensional? Jennings is possibly an ‘MLS or bust’ signing as the organization already has one Ronaldo Damus-type of raw forward with Ricardo Pepi getting ever closer to maturing, and Franco Jara a few months away from competing with Zdenek Ondrasek and Jesus Ferreira. I just get the feeling that while he is using his physicality well, the team may want to see more of a mental and technical game on show that can be developed.

Under contract and playing for their future

Dante Sealy has had a fantastic off-season pushing himself up the depth chart on the right wing. After a recent training spell with PSV Eindhoven, he may also be playing his way across the Atlantic when he reaches 18.

Another strong preseason has come from Callum Montgomery. The defender has been loaned to San Antonio FC for the season, but joined up with FC Dallas ahead of the trip to Florida with Luchi describing him as a first team player. I personally thought he was outstanding for SAFC against FCD, and his 2020 may be as the injury replacement for FC Dallas when he’s not with San Antonio. Luchi cited playing with older and bigger players in the USL Championship as a huge benefit to the Canadian, where USL-1 is really a development league.

Ema Twumasi looks like he may have a similar year with Austin Bold as he did last year. He is currently with FC Dallas but it looks like he’ll be spending some time in the state capital when he’s not getting minutes with The Hoops.

Three players are on more traditional season-long loans. Brecc Evans (Austin Bold), Francis Atuahene (San Diego Loyal), and Arturo Rodriguez (Real Monarchs SLC) are all with their loan clubs for the year, although FC Dallas/North Texas SC has a recall clause. For the two North Texas SC-contracted players, there is simply nothing to gain in USL League One. Both are potentially taking their next step, while Rodriguez has a sale option included. Atuahene simply needs to get away from Frisco and put a rough couple of years behind him.

One player we speculated would go on loan but hasn’t yet is Ronaldo Damus. Gonzalez confirmed that he would return with North Texas SC in 2020, despite heavy transfer interest.

Who’s trying to impress whom?

If you listen to 3rd Degree The Podcast, you’ll know what we all think of Tanner Tessmann. At 18-years-old he’s 6’2″, technically brilliant, and able to play multiple positions. He’s featured extensively in preseason even including the current Florida trip after committing to playing two sports at Clemson.

I mentioned Jennings not getting those pairs of $250 adidas cleats from FC Dallas. Tessmann got them, and the new first team training kit which isn’t typical for an unsigned player from the academy. Usually they wear North Texas SC gear or their academy red/blue training kit.

We know FC Dallas wants Tessmann as a Homegrown, but are these small things and the first team camps an effort to convince the player to sign on, or an indication that he’s ready to stay?

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