In 2015, the FC Dallas U16 Development Academy side ran over the New York Red Bulls like a train through crepe paper. The 4-0 result left little doubt about the most holistically successful academy in the country at that age group at that moment. A year later, the FC Dallas U18 team recorded a 2-1 extra time win over the Whitecaps to win the same trophy at a later age (the U16s also won the natty title that month, but I digress).
On Sunday, the final continuation. FC Dallas’ U19 team – it was a collection of player ages, but under a U19 umbrella – became just the second American side to ever win the Dallas Cup Super Group with a hugely impressive 2-1 win over Monterrey on Sunday night in Frisco. It was the first time an American team had won this competition since 2006, when Omar Gonzalez’s Dallas Texans took home the event’s ultimate silverware.
The same FC Dallas age group, working its way up to older age ranges until pooling out here, just won three major trophies in three years, the last of which was an international trophy unmatched in American club soccer. There is no competition in the U.S. youth game harder to win and more prestigious to hoist than the one FC Dallas just won in Texas. There is the Gordon Jago Super Group, and then there are the others.
This is certainly the most decorated and probably the single most talented single-team generation in American club history.
This was the goal that won it, from Arturo Rodriguez in the 89th minute. Monterrey, which possesses one of the three best academies in LigaMX at the moment, knotted the game less than 10 minutes earlier after Paxton Pomykal fired the opening salvo, but Rodriguez, hardly the most well-known name on the team (albeit one of the best) slammed a final riposte and the game was over, the trophy drenched in red and hooped.
— FC Dallas Youth (@FCDallasYouth) April 17, 2017
And so it happened.
YOUR SUPER GROUP DALLAS CUP CHAMPIONS!!!!! pic.twitter.com/yUbhwOE10E
— FC Dallas Youth (@FCDallasYouth) April 17, 2017
It’s been a dizzying three years for this group; there are already four pros, two of which (Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira) played a significant role in this particular Dallas Cup run and one (Schalke’s Weston McKennie) who might be the best American abroad yet to debut with his first team in a competitive match. In this tourney, FCD embarrassed returning champion Everton (which brought a fairly close approximation to an A-Team) by a 5-0 scoreline, topped Israeli developer Maccabi Haifa, dropped Brazil’s Coritiba 2-1 in the semis and then finished off Monterrey in the final.
Since the 2014-15 season, this group (roughly encompassing the 14-15 U16 side and the U18 teams from the 15-16 and current seasons) have a record of 56-11-10 and a goal differential of 186 for and 57 against. Not to mention two DA trophies and now a Super Group crown.
There will be much debate in the areopagus of American soccer about What All This Means, and plenty of competing arguments that results vis-a-vis development don’t matter. And in the defeatist context that clubs don’t directly wear these stars over their club crests, then yes, I suppose we can take that viewpoint. But I do think this comment from Oscar Pareja, FCD’s first team coach, should not go unnoticed.
.@dallascup Asked Oscar Pareja about the value of this win: “It means a lot because they are getting the culture of winning trophies & that’s fantastic”
— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) April 17, 2017
Yes. Very much this, many times over.
Winning is as much a symptom of development as is the sort of team aesthetic – pass-and-move soccer, coherent passing, locked-up defending – that generally draws plaudits from across the aisle. It is an ingrained sort of behavior, like expecting a train to arrive on time because it has, or like throwing the timer in the trash on the grilled steak after the 47th time because you know by the grill marks and the feel when it’s ready to pull off the rack. Winning is an expectation, a feeling, and there is no better way to assure it becomes part of the team mentality than by emphasizing its importance repeatedly and with vigor.
I think there is a general mistrust in many soccer circles about this sort of attitude, because we all know first team results are the ultimate benchmark and winning at the U18 level is about as useful to the first team on a surface level as are results on FIFA 17. My hope is that we begin to crank the wheel the opposite direction, however lightly, and hopefully this FCD generation can provide the impetus.
Winning at this level is not important because of the trophies themselves, it’s important because of what the trophies do and what they say.
As for what they do, the trophies impart a sort of expectation that wins, even wins over Brazilian and Mexican developer academies of some repute, is more a matter of course than a cause to throw up the confetti. There’s a reason why Duke basketball fans never storm the court, even when their teams are objectively poor. And there is power in that.
As for what they say, wins speak to development. Wins at this level and at this volume – remember, 56 wins in 77 matches – tell of objectively proactive play and well-drilled defenders and a commitment use space after you watch the tape. Wins at the expense of things like individual development at the academy level is disastrous. Wins as a byproduct? Now you’re talking of a decisively beneficial barometer with which to judge the lifeblood of an academy.
This is the story of this generation for FCD, which has somehow surpassed golden and shot directly to platinum. The true wealth will be had in first team matriculation and success, whatever that ultimately looks like several years hence. But at least for now, feel free to crown this group as the single most decorated club class at the highest level possible in the modern history of soccer in America.