The U-20 World Cup being played in Poland has brought us different emotions and feelings. Excitement, uncertainty, suspense, drama and pleasure, all of it in a competition played by young men who are trying to showcase themselves every day, while honoring and fighting for the colors of their country.
I will emphasize a thing that this World Cup also brought to us: hope. This hope was given by an American generation of soccer players that showed the world a side about American soccer that a lot of people did not know about, or did not remember it existed, a style of soccer that competed with some of the best teams in the world, despite the elimination in the quarter finals.
It is fair to say that the recent years of the USMNT have been disappointing, and that led to a feeling of separation between the team and its followers. The message that this U-20 World Cup brought to us is that, even though the USMNT has failed in getting the best out of their individualities and collective talent, there is hope and talent to get back on a positive path.
In this talented generation, I will highlight one of the players that just represents its quality, the versatility and values: Paxton Pomykal. Not only is he one of the best young talents of this tournament, but he is also the leader and the captain of a group who surprised a lot of people, with its individual and collective strengths. Pomykal played four of the five games that the U.S team played in this tournament, playing every single minute on those four appearances.
He started the first game as a left winger, but played most of his minutes where he likes to be, in the center of the field. Connecting the different sectors of the team, building up the plays, showing up in good positions to turn and break defensive lines, dribbling through opponents and giving his teammates passes that put them in great situations to score. All these actions and behaviors are part of Pomykal’s soccer DNA, but there are many other things to say about this amazing player.
If you watch the MLS you probably know him. After two seasons developing and trying to fight hard for minutes (no more than 200 minutes played for Dallas, where he signed his homegrown contract at the age of 16), Paxton Pomykal has been one of the most interesting players of this year’s MLS edition. Constantly on the starting eleven for Dallas, the 19 year old started eight out of the first nine games, before a muscle injury put him out of the following couple games.
With two goals and an assist, he has been one of the main figures of this FC Dallas side, having an important role on the offensive play for the Texans. Gifted technically, Pomykal’s left foot has no fear of any opposition. He reads and understands the game like a veteran, but his youth and irreverence are also part of his game, especially when he dribbles through defensive lines, or completes a key pass that breaks the defensive shape of the opposing team. His mental characteristics are as good, or even better, than his soccer skills.
He is a natural leader, competitive and possesses a great soccer IQ. He knows the responsibility that he has on the field and makes sure he shows it every time he wears his jersey, showing off his desire with and without the ball, something very mature and noticeable in such a young and talented player.
As a center midfielder, I believe that playing time will only improve his presence and impact on the game, understanding when to drop and build, or when to trust his teammates and show up closer to the box, where he enjoys to assist, but also to put the ball in the net. While his participation on the offensive work is constant, I believe that his decision making on where to be on the field can improve his game even more.
The closer he is to areas where he can directly contribute to a goal, the more dangerous and impactful he will be for his team. That position, allied with his technical, psychological and human skills will make him one of the most important players in the MLS and, in the future, move to a more competitive league if he is given playing time and is unaffected by injuries.
There is a big expectation about Paxton Pomykal, and I believe that he will keep justifying the attention and he can contribute to the USMNT very soon. Not only do I believe that his characteristics are a match to what the US needs in the center of the park (creativity, intelligence on the ball and passing quality), but I also believe that he is ready for that next step of being side to side with Pulisic, McKennie, Sargent, Tyler Adams, Brooks and all the young and talented players that are starting to have an impact at the senior level.
By: Rodrigo Carvahlo
Photo: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports