FRISCO, Texas — After years of talk about the lack of a developmental club for FC Dallas, which touts arguably the best academy in Major League Soccer, the day is finally here.
North Texas Soccer Club, FCD’s USL League One team, will open its 2019 campaign in the third tier of American soccer against the Chattanooga Red Wolves at 7 p.m. ET Saturday at Toyota Stadium.
Head coach Eric Quill has experience developing players. Prior to being hired by NTSC, he was at the Houston Texans academy, the club of former FCD academy players Christian Cappis and Chris Richards.
This, however, is a new challenge. Quill’s new job is to prepare these players to one day make the leap to MLS.
“There’s so many talented players here that have big projections,” Quill told Pro Soccer USA. “A lot here are projected pros. There’s a lot of weight carried on your shoulders. You want these kids to project, and that’s part of my job. That’s how I’m being judged.
“There’s an overload of talent here that you will see play in this stadium, no doubt, but maybe play in stadiums beyond — maybe in Mexico, maybe in Europe, who knows. There’s an influx of talent here and it’s only getting more and more dense, so we gotta be really good with our staff and make sure there’s a plan for each of these players. We need to execute on their deficiencies and what it’s gonna take to take them to next level.”
The ultimate goal of a lower-level team is to provide a seamless transition from the academy to the first team. That requires buy-in not only from Quill but from the staff and the players as well. Quill and FCD coach Luchi Gonzalez speak about the players going up and down the teams. It’s more of a collaborative effort from the coaches, and each has the same goal of creating the best team possible for FC Dallas.
“The first team is the focus,” Quill said. “The profiles of each position have been chosen for a reason, to emulate the first team in the way we play, in the formations and how much each position is defined. I spent time with Luchi and I think there’s an understanding. . . . .Sure, we have our little nuances and we don’t all see the exact same thing.
“When you move [the players] on, you don’t want them to go up there and hear from the first team coaches that they struggled. You want to hear that they’re successful. We see the way the first team plays. We see the way they train. We see their methodology. We see their philosophies. And we’re showing that to our second team players each day.”
The players for North Texas SC range in experience from 16-year-old Ricardo Pepi, who was signed directly from the academy as the team’s first signing, to Oscar Romero, 22, and Hector Montalvo, 21, who both spent time at the academy and moved on to other clubs before returning to Texas.
Part of managing the team and the personalities is monitoring how players progress. With so many young players on the roster, that can sometimes mean guiding their off-field decisions or reeling in those personalities during times of success.
The message from Quill is clear: No one is bigger than the process.
“I think that’s the man-management side of things as a professional coach,” Quill said. “You pay attention to your player’s personalities and who they are as people off the field. You have to bring ‘em in and back a bit if they’re thinking that they’re bigger than what the actuality is. We’ve haven’t had any incidents of that so far. That’s the job of us and the assistant coaches, having an eye on these guys, making sure they’re confident on the field and making sure they understand the importance of how they live off the field, how they interact with each other in a team form.”
Another challenge will be the constant shifting of the roster. Players will come up from the academy and down from the first team, and 18 players every weekend will need to be selected for an NTSC match.
“When you talk about [Bryan] Reynolds and some of these guys that are training day-to-day with the first team, and they come down to play with the second team, they’re looked at and viewed as leaders,” Quill said. “Their responsibility is to understand they’re coming down, but they’re coming down to be leaders. They must be showing that on the field.
“We want this between the first and second team, to be such an integrated process. We want them to care about each other. No one is bigger than the organization.”
Quill said North Texas SC will be attack-minded. He mentioned the names of Pepi, Romero, and Alfusainey Jatta as players in the offensive third who can provide firepower. He wants his team playing quick soccer, being creative and to take risks up the pitch.
Basically, if you like scoring, you’ll like NTSC.
“If you like attacking soccer, you’re really gonna love watching this team play,” Quill said. “The amount of high-level players going forward in their attacking games is outstanding. The ideas that they have, they think on an extremely high level. I think their ability to execute in final third situations is extremely high, especially for some of their ages.
“We’re going to have so many chances on goal.”