SHORT HILLS, N.J. – Weston McKennie has known Paxton Pomykal since he was 11 years old.
“I used to guest play, when guest play was a thing, with his team back in those times,” McKennie said Wednesday at a media roundtable ahead of the US men’s national team’s international friendly against Mexico Friday (8:30 PM ET | FS1, Univision, TUDN) at MetLife Stadium.
Back then, McKennie said the chatter about Pomykal was all about what the midfielder couldn’t do.
“One of the many things back then that people always used to talk about was he's too small, he's not fast, he's not this, he's not that,” McKennie said.
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Ten years later, McKennie and Pomykal are teammates once again, this time for the USMNT’s September friendlies.
Pomykal has enjoyed a meteoric rise this season, becoming a regular starter for FC Dallas, an MLS All-Star and a key player for Tab Ramos’ team during the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
That, at the age of 19, Pomykal getting his first look by USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter isn’t a surprise to McKennie.
“For him to be able to overcome those [things] then and to not let it bring him down and to show why he's able to be playing at this type of level and this top level, I have nothing but respect for him and support for him,” McKennie said. “I hope that he does the best that he can here and eventually gets called back.”
McKennie said he hasn’t gotten a chance for a one-on-one conversation with Pomykal during this camp to tell him what to expect under Berhalter, “but eventually I will.”
Another reason why the FC Schalke 04 midfielder isn’t surprised is because Pomykal came up through the FC Dallas academy, the same one McKennie relied upon when he returned from US residency camp “a little bit broken,” after missing out on the U-17 World Cup.
“I owe a lot to them for bringing me out of that situation,” McKennie said of FC Dallas. “And I owe a lot to them to help me become the player I am today.”
Reggie Cannon was also excited to see Pomykal’s name as one of the 26 players Berhalter called in. They are, along with goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, the three FC Dallas players selected – the most of any MLS club – and among five players, including McKennie and defender Walker Zimmerman, to have FC Dallas ties.
“I think that’s super important that FC Dallas [has] an imprint on players like this,” the right back said.
As for Pomykal’s growth, Cannon has seen it first-hand this season. Like McKennie, he’s excited to see the midfielder take the next step with the USMNT.
“It’s a process. I think he's really climbed up that ladder, he's starting to really build his resume for soccer,” Cannon said. “I think that's really important. He's really developing into quite the player in this national team."