clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

SSFC Spotlight: A Comeback Year for Paxton Pomykal at FC Dallas

New, 18 comments

The midfielder worked his way back from another injury.

SOCCER: OCT 02 MLS - Minnesota United FC at FC Dallas Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

From a sporting perspective, there are few things more frustrating than a player being held back by persistent injuries. From a young age, Paxton Pomykal’s talent and potential have never been in doubt, only his ability to stay on the field. The midfielder is enjoying a solid season at FC Dallas and appears to have regained career momentum. If his progression continues upward, the national team stands to benefit.

Pomykal was born in Lewisville, Texas. He spent several years with the Dallas Texans youth club, receiving the opportunity to trial with Hoffenheim, Hertha Berlin, Manchester United, Crewe Alexandra, Derby County, and Atlético Madrid. “The most beneficial was my first trip to Manchester United, as I was 11 years old and it opened my eyes to the professionalism of international soccer,” the midfielder told Top Drawer Soccer in 2014. “The most important have been the two trips to Germany because I lived and trained with first-class youth pro academies… They train everyday with the mentality of becoming a pro. You just don’t get that here.”

After joining the FC Dallas Academy, Pomykal was a member of two teams that won the USSDA National Championship and named to the all-league team. Adidas selected him to play at the UEFA Young Champions International five-v-five tournament, on a squad that competed against Brazil, Japan, and Germany. Winning Most Valuable Player honors earned him an invitation to participate in a match against “former world all-stars,” where he was once again Man of the Match with two goals and three assists.

Dallas signed him to a Homegrown contract in September of 2016, despite the potential of playing in Europe. “Dreams evolve,” said Pomykal after putting pen to paper. “I’m from here. This is the pro team here and I’ve always come to games and supported them. It’s unbelievable to be here and have young kids dreaming to be pros watching me now.”

The club gave him the number 19 jersey, the first to wear the shirt since the death of club legend Bobby Rhine. His professional debut came the next season against Árabe Unido in the CONCACAF Champions League. He made five total appearances, while also scoring the goal that clinched the Dallas Cup Gordon Jago Super Group for the U-19s.

During the offseason, Pomykal traveled to Germany to train with Bayern Munich. Due for an expanded role in the team, he underwent surgery “to remove damaged tissue from the meniscus in his right knee” after an MRI uncovered the issue. His rehabilitation lasted a few weeks, after which the league named him to the MLS Homegrown Game. The teenager made seven total appearances for a mere 168 minutes that season but continued to impress in limited playing time and at the youth international level.

Following the departure of several veterans, the 2019 season was a step forward for Pomykal under new manager Luchi Gonzalez, the club’s former academy director. In an early match against Real Salt Lake, he scored a brace. The league named him to the Major League Soccer All-Star Game, a member of the team that lost 3-0 to Atlético Madrid. The midfielder made 27 total appearances, with two goals and five assists, while working to become less “conservative” on the field. However, there were several matches missed due to various injuries, and a “hernia-type issue” required surgery, the third in three years.

Amid reports of building European interest, Dallas signed him to a four-year contract with an option for the 2024 season. The next year started well with five appearances, split by the pandemic break in between. However, the injury bug struck once again, requiring “arthroscopic labrum repair and correction of CAM impingement,” followed by months of rehabilitation.

This season has been a slow return to form, with the stated intention of staying healthy. Pomykal has contributed one goal and one assist in 27 appearances, many as a substitute. There was a minor knee issue that resulted in a few missed matches but was insignificant when compared to the serious nature of past injuries. The recent departure of Gonzalez may signify greater changes at the club, which has constantly promoted young and local talent. New managers make their own assessments of existing players, which could impact his progress and international future.

A long-time part of the national team program, Pomykal was a member of the squad that won the 2018 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship, contributing three goals and seven assists. At the ensuing U-20 World Cup, he served as captain during the run to the quarterfinals. His first senior cap came in a 2019 friendly against Uruguay, a five-minute substitute appearance in the 1-1 draw.

Gregg Berhalter appears to be a hesitant fan of Pomykal, waiting for sustained consistency. In 2019, he praised the midfielder as “very interesting” due to “playing well between the lines, breaking lines dribbling, and giving [the team] a lot of solutions.” The manager considered him for last summer’s Gold Cup roster, but the situation was described as “a guy who’s just getting back to fitness and it’s just a little bit late on where he’s at.”

Pomykal has been cited for his “intelligence and coachability.” Technically gifted and versatile, he “reads and understands the game like a veteran, but his youth and irreverence” are on display when making tricky dribbling runs or playing a line-breaking pass. The left-footed, 5’8” midfielder has been compared to Frenkie de Jong, at his best when operating with “total freedom” in the attacking third. Producing at the rate commensurate of an attacker remains an issue, which could improve with more experience.

“[He is] one of the most exciting U.S. prospects of the past few years,” scouting expert Tor-Kristian Karlsen told ESPN. “He’s an excellent passer of the ball. [He] plays the central midfield role with confidence and authority, often looking to open the opposing defense with a deep pass. He displays smart off-the-ball movement, generally plays with few touches and his low center of gravity ensures good balance... I don’t think anyone’s going to spend real money on him if he can’t get on the field and maintain his fitness for a good chunk of the season.”

A single injury can disrupt a player’s career. Overcoming several is an increasingly frustrating challenge, a fight from which many never recover. Pomykal has once again worked his way back into the FC Dallas rotation. Now the task is maintaining consistency, which could lead to fulfilling the dreams of “playing in the Champions League” and wearing “the national team crest at a World Cup.”