FRISCO, Texas – Paxton Pomykal has enjoyed a breakout year with FC Dallas, earning a regular starting spot, a place on the MLS All-Star roster, and his first cap with the US men's national team. In the unusual position of first-half substitute in FCD's 1-1 draw against New York City FC on Sunday, Pomykal's impact helped nudge Dallas back above the Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes in the the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs race.
With Brandon Servania and Anton Tinnerholm suffering a clash of heads that required both players to be substituted within the first half-hour of the game, Pomykal took the field — despite feeling the effects of an inflamed hip flexor sustained in Wednesday's 0-0 draw in Seattle.
"Paxton is a player that was nursing a hip flexor issue earlier in the week after Seattle, and we had concerns if he was even going to be on the roster," said FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez after the match. "We were very conservative with his participation after Seattle. He snuck into the roster, came into this one early and helped this team respond. It's a great reaction by Paxton to help the team push."
Dallas found themselves on the back foot with the very first play of the game, as Valentín Castellanos slammed home Tinnerholm's cross just 40 seconds after kickoff. The Cityzens' press pushed FCD back and created a large gap between the defense and midfield as the game seemed to be getting away from Dallas.
After Servania's injury, Gonzalez brought Pomykal in with the instruction to drop deeper than his usual "free 8" role in the team. The change was vital for the shift in the game as Dallas began to claw its way back.
While it won't reflect as an assist, Pomykal created Dallas' equalizer out of nothing, seeing the opportunity to race forward from the half-way line as Sean Johnson played a gentle pass to Alex Ring. The Homegrown's tackle landed at the feet of Zdenek Ondrasek, leaving the Czech striker with a fantastic opportunity that led to his fourth goal in the last three games at Toyota Stadium.
"We saw Sean Johnson was just chilling on the ball, trying to waste a little time, be a little cute, and they got punished for it," Pomykal said of the sequence leading up to the goal. "At the end of the day it could have been Jesus [Ferreira], it could have been me pressing but that's our philosophy, our mentality, and it worked out for us."
"Last game in Seattle I was playing on the wing and today I was asked to come into the game when we were off the ball, be in a double-six with Bryan [Acosta]," he added. "Then on the ball, be a little deeper but more like a linking eight and have Jesus free in the lines. That required me to come back a bit because we were letting Reggie [Cannon] go, then I was covering him in prevention. It's all just tactical things like that, it's free-flowing."