Paxton Pomykal FC Dallas

For FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal, 2021 was the year he proved he could stay healthy for a full MLS season.

In 2022, he wants to prove himself a consistently “productive” member of a winning team.

Although Pomykal made a career-high 31 appearances in 2021, a year removed from an injury-plagued 2020, he concedes he struggled to generate the offensive numbers expected of him while managing a new role on the wing. Health also significantly limited the homegrown player's impact in 2017 and 2018.

“Last year was a good stepping stone for me, but at the end of the day I didn’t play my best soccer,” Pomykal told reporters on Thursday. “And with that, we also as a team did not play very well. So I want to contribute and be more … productive in helping the team win this year. And hopefully I can do that and play a lot of minutes and keep us in the playoff spots and hopefully in the top two or top three.”

The 22-year-old managed only a goal and two assists in over 1500 regular-season minutes. All the while, Dallas finished 11th in the Western Conference standings during a season that included the mid-year departure of manager Luchi Gonzalez.

Now tasked with a more central role under first-year boss Nico Estevez, Pomykal is chasing a return to the form that earned him a 2019 MLS All-Star nod and spot in the US men's national team picture.

Dallas, who open their upcoming campaign Feb. 26 home to Toronto FC, have approached the offseason like a team targeting those upper reaches of the table.

Late last month, they sent $2 million of General Allocation Money to D.C. United to secure USMNT winger Paul Arriola – a league-record trade outlay. Then on Tuesday, FCD officially announced the signing of Argentine youth international Alan Velasco from Independiente for a fee approaching $7 million, according to reports in Argentine media.

Those moves come after two FCD homegrowns went to the German Bundesliga: USMNT striker Ricardo Pepi to FC Augsburg in a club-record transfer (reported $20 million) and defender Justin Che on loan to Hoffenheim. All the while, USMNT and homegrown forward Jesus Ferreira has signed a new Young DP deal, with Velasco and striker Franco Jara their other DPs.

Pomykal, amid the moving pieces, welcomes the new blood.

“I really do think that the guys we’re bringing in and the squad we have is a really good one, and we need to just adopt the mentality of winning and being aggressive and just competing,” Pomykal said. “I feel like we didn’t compete enough last year, which is kind of a weird thing to say because you don’t go on the field to lose games, but we just need to have a bit more anger in the way we play.”

Pomykal thinks Arriola, whom he knows well from time together with the US, could play a key role as someone who establishes that culture.

And together, it leaves Pomykal optimistic that brighter days await.

“He works his butt off,” Pomykal said of Arriola. “As a team you can’t [overvalue] the way a guy on the wing like that works for you and presses and just does the dirty work and helps out, not only on the field but off the field. He’s just such a genuinely good guy, and to have a guy like that with that much experience with a young squad like we have … it’s really vital that he comes in and helps us out.”