FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal’s 2019 has been full of accomplishments. The homegrown player has been leading his team in the midfield, showing his ability as a two-way player and earning minutes under first-year head coach Luchi Gonzalez.
Pomykal has emerged as one of FC Dallas’ most valuable players on the pitch, successfully taking on players and risks along the way. But on Saturday during FCD’s 0-0 draw against San Jose, all of that came to a screeching halt.
After tweaking his hamstring, Pomykal had to be substituted at halftime of the match. He is going to be out for Dallas’ match against Houston this weekend — Gonzalez said his injury shouldn’t keep him out more than two weeks. But Pomykal may be out even longer once he recovers. That’s because he is expected to be named to the United States U-20 World Cup roster on May 10 by coach Tab Ramos. The tournament runs from May 23 to June 15 in Poland.
With the lingering injury and a coaching staff that understands Pomykal’s priority is to be healthy for the U-20 World Cup, the 19-year-old could be out for up to six matches for the team, if the U.S. makes it to the final.
Midfielder Edwin Cerrillo has been in this spot before. Earlier this season, Cerrillo was asked to help fill the spot of midfielder Bryan Acosta, who was out with an ankle injury.
“Obviously, [Pomykal] is an important piece to our team,” Cerrillo told Pro Soccer USA. “When guys are injured or can’t play, there’s always guys who step up. In my case, when Bryan and Gruezo went away for the national team, I had to step up and I’m sure whoever gets his position Saturday will have to step up as well and contribute to the team as much as they can.”
It’s all apart of Gonzalez’s next man up mentality. When one player goes down, it’s an opportunity for another player to make the most of a chance. Playing time, especially in the midfield, is at a premium for Dallas with Cerrillo, Pomykal, Jacori Hayes, Acosta, Carlos Gruezo, and Brandon Servania all vying for action.
“Obviously, whoever is going to be in his position is going step up whether that be Jacori, Bryan, Edwin, or whoever,” right back Reggie Cannon told Pro Soccer USA. “They’re ready to be there. Paxton has been a very integral part of this team but Luchi’s mindset is that anyone is replaceable. Paxton is a strong player, a great player, he really helps us, but whoever is ready to step up will be there.”
Filling the role of Pomykal will be difficult on the offensive end. Pomykal is currently third on the team in expected assists per game, averaging .16. It’s the highest in the midfield, with a potential trio of Acosta, Gruezo, and Cerrillo all averaging below .05. Cerrillo is preparing for the task filling that gap, to help compensate for the loss of Pomykal.
“I do think I need to step up a little bit more,” Cerrillo said. “Paxton was the one who was creating in the midfield and trying to carry the team as much as he can. With him being away, I think I need to bring my level up a little more and try to contribute to the team. Just from the start of this week, I’ve been trying to do that and as it goes on, I try to gain more confidence in my game and try to do a little bit more to help my team out.”
The tests have come early for Gonzalez and his team and they will not stop. FCD will potentially lose players to the U-20 World Cup, Gold Cup, and Copa America in the upcoming months. It’s the benefit and curse of having strong players that attract international attention in MLS — some games, they’ll be there but other games, they may not. Gonzalez has balanced it well early but when all three competitions overlap, he says his squad will be ready to compete.
“The group is going to miss him but at the same time, we have other pieces that are capable,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve shown our depth early this season. They’re going to continue to do that. The group is taking pride in that. That’s important, especially going into Copa America, Gold Cup, U-20 World Cup. It’s better that we don’t get surprised by that in a month. We’re already going through that process. I’m confident that the group is going to continue to do that.”