FC Dallas have long been considered one of the premier teams in MLS in terms of youth development, and at the upcoming MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, the club's crop of young talent figures to have plenty of opportunities to make an impact.
Players like Paxton Pomykal, Jesus Ferreira and Reggie Cannon, all under the age of 23, are already known commodities that head coach Luchi Gonzalez will likely continue to lean on throughout the tournament. But in terms of a young face still looking to make his mark, FC Dallas captain Reto Ziegler pinpointed 18-year-old rookie Tanner Tessmann as one to keep a close eye on.
Tessmann, who signed a Homegrown contract before the start of the season after initially planning on playing soccer and kicking for the football team at Clemson, featured in each of FC Dallas's first two games of 2020, picking up his first pro assist in a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union on Feb. 29. With all the fixture congestion on the horizon, it stands to reason that Tessmann will get his chance to continue to show what he can do.
"We have some great talent on the team," Ziegler said on a conference call Tuesday. "I really like Tanner in the midfield. I think the technique he has for his size is quite high. Tactically he's very clever. I see him having a good career at a high level, he's one of my favorite players in the midfield, he's very good. I'm proud to have talented players like him.
"Reggie, not long ago, he was considered a young player but now he's a starter for the US national team. FC Dallas is a big opportunity for young players and I'm proud to be part of this team, to be the captain, to help and support the younger guys."
While Tessmann tries to make his case in training for more minutes, it's a newly acquired veteran that FC Dallas is starting to integrate that they're hoping will be an immediate difference-maker.
Forward Franco Jara, 31, arrived at the club last week on a Designated Player contract, following a productive six-season stint in Liga MX with Pachuca that saw him score 60 goals in 131 appearances. Ziegler said that he hasn't yet had the chance to face off with Jara on the practice field, as the club has yet to be cleared to resume full training, but that based on the interactions he's had with him he feels as though Jara's mindset and personality fit in well with the group.
"I couldn't really face him on the field or really play a game with him or against him," Ziegler said. "But of course I welcomed him to the team and I like his personality. He's a winner. In his speech when he came, he said he wanted to lift a Cup with this club, and we all have that in mind."
As FC Dallas look ahead to the tournament, another clash with the defending MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders looms in Group B.
It's a rematch of the Western Conference first-round bout between the sides in last year's MLS Cup Playoffs, which was one of the wildest matches of the postseason, as the Sounders won 4-3 in extra time after Dallas erased deficits of 2-0 and 3-2. Given the history between the sides, it has a chance to be one of the most hard-fought matches in group play, and Ziegler said his club is looking forward to the opportunity to atone for last year's gut-wrenching playoff exit.
"We're going to face the champions. Seattle is going to be a tough game," Ziegler said. "The good thing is we've faced them many times in the past. They're champions for a reason, but we're not scared of anybody, we have respect for them. We played a great game against them, but for sure it's going to be a tough game, I'm looking forward to it. I still have bad memories about the playoffs last year and we want to do better, so I'm looking forward to this game. We have a lot of respect for the Sounders."