Breaking Down North Texas' Roster Decisions
With an important offseason ahead, North Texas Soccer Club began the work to trim its roster and focus on 2024.
It’s fair to say that the 2023 season for North Texas Soccer Club did not go as expected. The team parted ways with Pa-Modou Kah at the end of 2022 and named Javier Cano as the next head coach. The decision resonated with a focus on youth development, as Cano, a fellow Spaniard like Nico Estevez, boasted extensive experience with various youth academies in Europe and in North America.
However, with the young side dropping points and struggling to play to their potential, Cano was let go over halfway through 2023. North Texas was well outside of playoff positioning. There were certainly complicating circumstances to explain why Cano’s lineups struggled. It was one of the youngest teams in MLS Next Pro for starters, and bottom-end senior guys were not available as the senior team experienced a glut of injuries.
But the team showed a propensity to turn off in huge moments, giving up multiple leads, allowing goals early in matches to dig too deep a hole to escape, and struggling in penalty shootouts.
While an announcement around a new head coach could be weeks or months away, with John Gall still officially serving as an interim, the front office made some moves to clear space and turn the page with hopes of a better 2024.
Let’s start with the positive. Tyshawn Rose, who went down with a season-ending injury, and Tomas Pondeca will be back.
North Texas SC exercised the 2024 option on defender Tyshawn Rose and midfielder Tomas Pondeca. Rose registered 19 appearances, logged 1,592 minutes and five assists during the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season. The left back recorded a hat trick of assists on May 7 in the 4-1 win over St Louis CITY2. Pondeca made 23 appearances and registered 1,222 minutes played. He scored four goals and recorded one assist after signing with the club on March 10, from the club’s open tryouts.
Pondeca is a bright young talent who is another walk-on in the vein of Bernard Kamungo. While the first half of the season revealed how much the young player needs to grow, Tomas came on strong in the second half, scoring goals and locking down a starting spot as the team pushed to keep their playoff hopes alive. Another year of development gives the team time to evaluate Tomas and gauge his potential.
Likewise, Tyshawn Rose was a stalwart at left back who filled a huge need. His five assists reveal his attacking eye and crossing pedigree. His injury was unfortunate, as he might have helped North Texas claw their way back into the playoffs. Left backs with potential are a premium for any professional organization, so whether Rose has a future with FC Dallas, another year widens the window for that opportunity.
Diego García, Dylan Lacy, Malachi Molina, Diego Pepi, Tomas Pondeca, Tyshawn Rose, Carl Sainté, Lautaro Taboada and Alejandro Urzua are all under contract for the 2024 MLS NEXT Pro season.
In addition to recent signing of Brazilian-American GK Victor Darub, North Texas has ten players signed to contracts. It’s a solid core. Players like Malachi Molina came on strong late, and a few of the players (like Dylan Lacy and Taboada) joined midway through the season. They have time to figure things out.
The good news is that Carl Sainté remains under contract after another solid year. His repeated call-ups with the Haitian men’s national team also bodes well for his continued development and opportunities to earn training time with the senior squad.
North Texas will be looking for more trialists and signings to come. You can expect another draft pick or two to be in the mix, as well as other potential loanees from the senior team or foreign teams.
Of those out of contract, one name looms though - Hope Aveyevu.
Hope has been a star for North Texas Soccer Club, and while he may still be raw, the young Ghanian attacker enters a crucial offseason. His 2023 was as solid as you could want with six goals and 4 assists to his name. I have a strong suspicion that he will get a camp invite to earn a spot with FC Dallas, but Hope should get plenty of invitations to fight for a spot with USL Championship level teams too. He has outgrown North Texas, but is he good enough for Major League Soccer?
Other players who have been cut may get an invite to camp as well, but most will look to continue their development at a different level.
Before any of those decisions, North Texas will need to decide who will lead this team in the coming months. John Gall expressed his strong interest in being the permanent head coach. While the results didn’t dramatically improve after he took over, the team as a whole played with renewed energy. He led the squad to two big wins against in-state rivals to close out the season. If he can continue that trend, he should get a serious look.
Returning to the top, fans of this team and FC Dallas will continue to wonder - what is the vision for North Texas long term? Do they want to win trophies? Do they want to develop young players? Do they want to prep guys for minutes with the senior team? Can they do all of those at once?
An interesting winter awaits as some of those questions get sorted out.
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