FRISCO, Texas — After a strong Major League Soccer season in 2019, FC Dallas homegrown midfielder Paxton Pomykal was rewarded with a call-up to Gregg Berhalter’s U.S. men’s national team squad as the team prepares to play Mexico on Friday and Uruguay on Tuesday. Now, it’s up to Pomykal to make the most it.
Pomykal’s FC Dallas season has shown his ability as a two-way midfielder with the 19-year-old playing as an eight in Luchi Gonzalez’s system. Pomykal had limited appearances in his first three seasons but has risen to the scene, playing an important role in FCD’s midfield in what many pundits had dubbed as a rebuilding year. Dallas currently sits in a playoff spot and has been in the race in part due to Pomykal and his work rate.
“Happy,” Pomykal said to Pro Soccer USA when asked about his emotions. “That one word embodies it all. This is just the beginning, so I know that these are games that are not, at the end of the day, tournament games. This is a chance I can go in and showcase what I can do and try and to prove why I belong. Getting there is the easy the part. Staying there is going to be a difficult thing and I’m just going to have to go in there and play my game and perform to the best of my ability.”
Berhalter has taken note of Pomykal’s season and wants to continue the youngster’s development. Pomykal has taken on a bigger role for not only his club team but his national team, wearing the captain’s armband for the United States during the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland. That workload has shown in Pomykal’s last two matches where he has started on the bench, ostensibly due to fatigue, and that’s something Berhalter has noticed.
“A guy like Paxton, for example, is very interesting,” Berhalter said on MLSSoccer.com’s ExtraTime Radio. “He plays very well between the lines, he’s good dribbling the ball, he can break lines dribbling. He gives you a lot of solutions. But again, I think it’s really early for a guy like him to be able to make an impact on the senior level. It will be nice in his development– you think about this year for him– he’s a guy who broke into the first team, got solid minutes, has started out really well, has had a dip in form, physically has gotten tired, now he’s rebounding.
“Now, it’s time to give him another stress to really round out this year of his development. I’m excited to have him with the men’s team to see how he can cope with the speed and the level of the game.”
Asked what his conversation with Berhalter was like ahead of his first senior USMNT call-up, Pomykal said it was a first step.
“We had a good conversation,” Pomykal said. “He told me that he wanted to bring me into camp, get me acclimated and see how it goes and go from there. It was a good conversation and I’m looking forward to the trip.”
Pomykal joins Ajax’s Sergino Dest as players from the U-20 World Cup roster. Eight of the players from the 26-man roster are eligible for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Toyko, including Pomykal and teammate Reggie Cannon. After playing with the U-18s at age 16, Pomykal has risen up the ranks, going through the youth cycle before earning his senior team call-up.
“It’s a showcase to the commitment that we have to U.S. youth soccer,” Pomykal said. “We’re putting a lot of effort into our youth national teams. We have 8-9 guys under 23 that are going to this senior team camp, so that showcases a lot for what we can offer.”
Surrounded by players who have the experience, Pomykal will now head to camp looking to begin writing his national team story. Berhalter mentioned to reporters in a conference call that he wants to get Pomykal that experience of being in a senior team camp, even if he does not believe the player is ready to make a significant impact.
“I just know that I want to go in and showcase what I can do,” Pomykal said. “It’s a lot of unfamiliar faces that I haven’t been with before so, proving to a new coaching staff why you belong sometimes can be hard but that’s why the first meeting, the first couple of trainings is crucial for that.”
Along with the first time call-up, Pomykal is excited to see players such as Schalke FC midfielder Weston McKennie, who alongside Cannon was apart of the team who won the national championship in 2016. FC Dallas has a massive footprint on this senior team roster with McKennie, Pomykal, goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, Cannon, and LAFC centerback Walker Zimmerman all making their first professional appearances with the team.
“I haven’t see Weston in a long time, so that’ll be cool because if you look, we have a lot of former FC Dallas players that are there, like Walker and Weston,” Pomykal said. “It’s going to be cool to see Weston because that U18 team we had with me, Weston and Reggie and now we’re all with the senior team. Obviously, seeing Serge, phenomenal player and a good friend of mine. It’s going to be good to see him again and he’s taken off this year.”