FC Dallas has grown accustomed to circumventing the MLS SuperDraft with Homegrown Players. Now, they are trying something new, circumventing the SuperDraft with a player from outside of the FC Dallas Academy.
Kalil ElMedkhar came through MLS’ other shop window to Europe, the Philadelphia Union Academy, before attending the University of Kentucky.
While FC Dallas was content to let the likes of Reggie Cannon, Brandon Servania, and Eddie Munjoma experience NCAA soccer before extending the offer, the Union has taken a largely different position on signing players after playing college ball. This left the Delaware-born winger moving on to the draft process.
“He’s a player that caught our eye in his senior year with Kentucky,” explained FCD Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez. “Even with a pandemic, we were connected with Kentucky’s staff, knowing his progress. He was a name on the on the combine sheet that was held in Kansas City. Our leadership were interested in the player, we knew that Philly had the Homegrown rights, and as soon as we found out potentially, he wasn’t going to be offered a Homegrown contract for their needs, we jumped on that.”
It was at the hastily arranged combine in Kansas City that FC Dallas found an interest in ElMedkhar but the club feared that the top-ten rated player would be off the board by the time Dallas’ 15th overall pick came around.
A week before the draft, FC Dallas acquired the 21-year-old’s Homegrown rights from Philly in exchange for $50,000, enabling them to agree a two year Homegrown deal with three team option years.
“I really had no idea they were going to trade for my rights,” ElMedkhar told FCDallas.com. “I woke up one morning to a phone call from my agent saying that they already traded for my rights, so I found out after the fact. So, it really caught me by surprise and it was pretty crazy.”
Dallas’ younger players often come into the first team picture with a long-standing relationship with Luchi Gonzalez from their shared academy days. While ElMedkhar is starting from scratch, he’s already developing those family-like relationships that Gonzalez has sought to fill the locker room with.
“He wants to get to know me and wants to get to know everybody,” said ElMedkhar on a Monday conference call. “He’s asking about my family asking about personal things. So he really is making an effort to get to know me and at the same time, I want to get to know him and we can build that relationship and make up for the lost time that some of the guys in the academy have had with him.”
As tough as it is for rookies to breakthrough, Coach Gonzalez was delighted to grab the winger who didn’t fit in with Union coach Jim Curtin’s narrow forward line. He’s also seeing a player quickly pick up the nuances of Luchi-ball.
“Kalil’s shown some positive things already,” explained Coach Gonzalez. “A player that’s creative, he can attack, he can score, and can combine. He’s learning some of our pressing schemes, so he’s fitting in quite well and competing.”
Arriving in the midst of a complete rebuild of the wings, ElMedkhar has his eyes on the starting role on Dallas’ left flank despite competition from new signing Freddy Vargas, and Paxton Pomykal who has suggested that his immediate future could lie in the wings. The former Philly man also took a turn on the right wing, playing a part in the lone goal of FC Dallas’ intrasquad scrimmage this past weekend.
“I’m really confident,” said ElMedkhar of his chances with the first team. “Paxton and Freddy, they’re really good players but I’m confident in myself and I’m obviously going to continue to compete for that starting spot. That’s my goal, to get that starting spot whether it’s day one or whether it’s by the end of the season. That’s what I’m gonna come in and continue to do every single day, compete for that spot.”