Who’s the next FC Dallas Academy signing – fall 2019 edition

Tanner Tessmann in the Dallas Cup
DALLAS, TX – APRIL 14: during the Dallas Cup Super Group soccer game between FC Dallas (USA) and Villareal (Spain) on April 14, 2019 at The Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky)

The winter silly season is upon us but FC Dallas can’t really make any official moves until after MLS Cup. But that doesn’t mean the organization can’t start signing players and getting ready for 2020.

North Texas Soccer Club’s season is over too. As a professional development team, there may, in fact, be more roster changes than there will be with FC Dallas. A few players may move up to FCD, some may be sold, and some will be cut. The window closes fast at what is essentially the U23 level.

Earlier this week I broke down the current North Texas SC roster with my take on who stays and who goes. So today I’m going to talk about players that should be incoming, specifically who should be signed form the FCD Academy, mostly.

FC Dallas Homegrown vs North Texas SC USL

For the purpose of this discussion, I’m not going to make a distinction between a Homegrown contract and a North Texas SC contract.

The Homegrown deals should be for players who are going to contribute now, like Ricardo Pepi. Typically this is going to be guys signed out of college – like Brandon Servania – or truly exceptional Academy players who can handle MLS at 16, 17, or 18 years of age – like Thomas Roberts. That’s a very short list.

If a player is going to be on loan to North Texas SC for the year anyway, just sign a USL contract. Pepi has shown it’s a short step to the Homegrown deal when the player is ready. The only difference between the two contracts form where I sit is the Homegrown deal handcuffs FCD in roster terms.

So Homegrown, USL, whatever. Just sign ‘em.

Let’s begin.

Signings for the Current Off-Season

Five players that should be signed between now and MLS/USL camps open. Five may seem like a lot but it’s not given the number of departures I expect from North Texas SC and I doubt FCD will land all five anyway.

1. Jonathan Gomez (2003)

Technically, at 16 years of age, Gomez is an FCD U17, but you can forget that. He hasn’t played for them this season after the preseason tournament in Monterrey. He’s spent a little time with the U19s in the new DA Cup games. But mostly he’s been playing for North Texas SC when he’s not in a Mexican or US youth international camps that is. Over the latter half of the NTX season – where he first appeared at the age of 15, when he was in his first season at the U17 level – Gomez has become the go-to starter at left back when FCD’s Johnny Nelson isn’t playing down. Gomez made 9 starts including the USL Final against Greenville Triumph.

Gomez is the highest priority signing on this list. Although with Ryan Hollingshead and Johnny Nelson at left back, there is no rush to push Gomez to MLS.

Jonathan Gomez rushes upfield with Greenville’s Evan Lee in pursuit in the USL League One Final won by North Texas SC, October 19, 2019.(@CMARCHO | Craig Marcho / 3rd Degree)

2. Tanner Tessman (2001)

The FCD Academy is a pipeline of center mids. Tessmann is the next in the line that includes Victor Ulloa, Kellyn Acosta, Weston McKennie, Paxton Pomykal, Chris Cappis, Edwin Cerrillo, and Thomas Roberts. Tessmann has played as a 9, winger, 10, 8, and a 6 for the Academy (26 games, 24 starts in ’18-’19) and North Texas SC (16 games, 9 starts). His most pure position is as a box to box 8, but I’ve suggested he might make a great center back and others have suggested he would make a great 9. He’s the best player still in the FCD U19 side and dominates their games, earning DA U19 Playoff MVP just a few months ago.

The only real stumbling block here is his father’s career in the Clemson athletic department. Consequently, there’s a natural lean toward college athletics. Tessmann is already past college soccer though and playing there would, in my opinion, be a waste of his time.

FC Dallas Academy midfielder Tanner Tessmann. (Collodi Photography)

3. Kevin Bonilla (2001)

Bonilla was recently called into a US U20 camp (along with Tessmann and a few others) but is also eligible for Honduras, although he’s not been called up by them. A natural right back, Bonilla can play on the left as well. He’s made a few starts for the 19s in his second season but like Gomez, he’s the starter for North Texas now – 13 starts in 14 appearances – when Bryan Reynolds isn’t playing down. Bonilla has all the talent to be a Luchi-Ball winger; pace, ball skill, ability to cut in or get to the end, and a non-stop 90-minute motor.

There are lots of colleges after Bonilla, but he wants to be a pro and is already the starter for North Texas. Sign the man.

FC Dallas right back Kevin Bonilla defends against #9 Nathan Hayes of Solar SC, September 22, 2019.(Solar SC U19s)

4. Nicolas Carrera (2002)

Nico is in his first season as a U19 and was involved in a tug-of-war between Mexico and the US to land him for the U17 World Cup. The US won the battle and Carrera is with Pepi and co. in Brazil. With all the camps he was gone a lot this summer and fall so hasn’t played a lot in the DA this season. There are allegedly a number of pro teams in Mexico and Europe monitoring him at the World Cup.

To this point he’s only played 23 minutes with North Texas but signing Carrera is about the future. Nico, who graduates high school in May, will probably finish this winter with the playing U19s and then in 2020 play the entire season with North Texas. With all the raw tools to be a pro center back, he just needs playing time at a higher level than the DA.

Nico Carrera with the Mexicu U17s.

5. Diego Letayf (2002)

I admit I might be biased on this one as Letayf’s game just speaks to me for some reason. He’s a sublime, smooth holding mid. Fantastic game reading, super clean touch, and (usually) a great passer. I mostly want FCD/NTX to sign him as I think he’s got such upside. But he’s “one for the future” and needs time at the U19 level yet.

North Texas also has a bit of a log jam a the 6. Alfusainey Jatta is obviously a stud and Bicou Bissainthe has something to offers as well. Plus Edwin Cerrillo still plays down from time to time. So I’d like to see Letayf signed, get maybe 5 or so starts and maybe 10 games off the bench with NTX while spending most of ’19-’20 with the U19s. Of course, he could do all that without a contract but I’d hate to risk losing a guy who has been in a couple of Mexico youth camps.

Like I said, I might be biased.

Diego Letayf of the FC Dallas Academy playing against Atlas in the 2018 Torneo Internacional.(Sub Internacional Liga MX)

Sign When They Can

By FIFA rules, a foreign-based player can’t sign with North Texas until they turn 18 and they can’t join the Academy either unless their whole family moved here for a job.

There are two young Ghanaian players of note that FCD spotted playing for the Bechem United FC U17 team at the Dallas Cup back in April. The club invited them to stick around in Dallas and train with North Texas and FC Dallas over the summer. Both should turn 18 sometime this year.

A third player, Victor Asante, was also getting a look but he tore his ACL and FC Dallas is helping his rehab. I have not seen him play yet.

Hope Avayevu Kodzo (2002)

A skillful and quick attacking mid, winger, or forward. He’s super dynamic and isn’t out of place in FC Dallas training. Like Richard Danzo currently with North Texas, FCD should sign this young man to an NTX contract as soon as he turns 18. Here’s a short clip of him at the Dallas Cup.

Emmanuel Awuah (unknown, but probably 2002)

Captain of the Bechem United FC U17s, Awuah is a smooth playing center back with plenty of range and a sublime passing game. In simple drills with FC Dallas, he performed adequately but really stood out in a full field scrimmage when his game reading and long passing were remarkable.

Emmanuel Awuah playing Bechem United FC U17s against Solar SC in the 2019 Dallas Cup.(Unknown / Bechem United)

Sign in May – When the Academy Season Ends

There’s no rush to bring in these two ‘01s, but they will graduate from the Academy in 2020 and I’d rather see them with North Texas rather than in college soccer.

Gibran Rayo (2001)

Rayo has always been a bit of a mystery to me, a mid/wing/forward with fantastic skills he doesn’t get on the score sheet as much as I would like. He’s got all the skills to be a pro, he may just need some more time to put it all together I think. This is actually his third season as a U19 because he played up a year back in ’17-’18. He’s made 12 appearances with 4 starts for NTXSC. I would like to see him finish the season with the U19s and NTX, then join North Texas full time instead of heading to college like Imanol Almaguer did this season.

Gibran Rayo playing for North Texas SC against Forward Madison.(North Texas SC)

Malik Henry-Scott (2001)

Henry-Scott is a bit of a late bloomer in soccer terms. He’s been playing with the FCD Youth the last few seasons (’18-’19 with FCD Youth 00, 28 goals in 26 games) but with the Pepi moving to FCD and Johan Gomez heading to Porto there was a gap at high striker position for the U19s and Malik has filled in. He’s a terrific looking athlete with pace & burst, good touch, great body control, and tenacity. So far, Henry-Scott is looking like a surprise success with 5 goals in four games. If he can maintain that form he’s worth looking at.

Can he cut it as a professional? I don’t know yet. But developing pros is what North Texas SC is for and I’d like to find out. Giving up a college ride might be a big risk for him though.

Conner Lewis (#15 white) of Solar SC defends against Malik Henry-Scott of FC Dallas. (9-22-19)(Solar SC U19s)

Not Yet

I have a shortlist – in alphabetical order – of 2002s that are with the FCD U19s for this season and potentially one more depending on when they graduate high school. In my book, these guys have some level of pro potential from “heck yes” to “long shot” but at some point, they grabbed my attention. I’ll be watching closely over this season and the next.

The number is parentheses is games played with North Texas this season.

RB Cristian Escribano (1), CM Cesar Garcia (1), F/M Diego Maynez, F/M Beni Redzic, F/M Michael Sosa (1), and GK Seth Wilson.

Tanner Tessmann, Thomas Roberts, Johan Gomes, and Kevin Bonilla (left to right) with the US U20 team, September 2019. (3rd Degree)

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