FC Dallas, Galaxy Homegrowns face off in "memorable day" for academy talent

FRISCO, Texas — Two of MLS’s most promising teenage Homegrown Players faced off at Toyota Stadium on Saturday as the LA Galaxy visited FC Dallas.

With his team missing veteran stars Romain Alessandrini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic due to injury, the Galaxy's Efrain Alvarez looked to build on his impressive MLS debut against the Chicago Fire in Week 1, while Paxton Pomykal sought to make his own impact for FCD after missing out on a start in the season opener.

Stepping into the XI after Jacori Hayes suffered tightness in his hamstring through the week, Pomykal put in a man-of-the-match performance in Dallas’ 'Free 8' role. His cutback to Bryan Acosta produced one of the week's highlights, while Alvarez, a second-half substitute, came close to adding another.

The 16-year-old provided LA's only shot on target as he nutmegged Matt Hedges before unleashing a fierce shot, only to see another Homegrown – Jesse Gonzalez – pull of a wonderful reaction save in stoppage time.

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Though it might be fair to suggest Pomykal stole the thunder of the richly-hyped Alvarez, his teammate in last year’s MLS Homegrown Game presented by Energizer® in Atlanta, the FCD midfielder had only praise for his counterpart.

"Efra's a great talent," said Pomykal. "He had a great assist and impacted the game in a great way to help them get the victory last week. I wouldn't say stealing the thunder, but he's a great talent and I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do this year."

Galaxy coach Guillermos Barros Schelotto also handed a debut to Ethan Zubak just a day after the 20-year-old signed a Homegrown contract. Never to be outdone on the youth stakes, Dallas' Luchi Gonzalez brought 18-year-old Edwin Cerrillo into the game for his first MLS minutes.

"Reggie [Cannon] played, Jesse [Gonzalez] played, Edwin made his debut," Pomykal said of his fellow Homegrown Players. "I'm proud of the guy, he's been working his butt off in preseason and what a player he is. I'm happy to see him get his debut, and hopefully more minutes this season."

Cerrillo didn't take long to get into the thick of the game as he cleared away a Joe Corona free kick in his first few seconds, after Ryan Hollingshead headed away the initial delivery. Chasing the ball out to midfield, the young Texan found himself face to face with one of his heroes.

"It was my first touch professionally," said Cerrillo. "When I saw Jonathan [dos Santos] was going to be the one to defend me it was crazy because he's an idol and someone I look up to. It's crazy to think we were on the same field. I'm glad I got this opportunity and we're going to keep moving forward."

FC Dallas consider themselves to have nurtured more than just the 25 players signed to Homegrown contracts over the past nine years – Gonzalez is another to graduate from the academy over the winter, as he succeeded Oscar Pareja. Cerrillo was keen to include his former academy coach while talking of his own achievements.

"Today, such a memorable day," said Cerrillo. "Luchi gets his first win and I get my debut. It couldn't get better than today for the academy."

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