Image: Jerome Miron- USA TODAY Sports
As the 2021 season approaches, one question on everyone's mind is the Paxton Pomykal situation. Will Paxton be healthy enough to compete in 2021 and if so, where will he play? In 2019, Paxton had a break out year and became the leader of the midfield for Dallas, creating multiple opportunities for his teammates during the run of play. His strong play from the early 2019 season carried over to the U-20 World Cup, where he captained the US in four games. His play that year earned him a spot on the 2019 MLS Allstar team and a call-up to the senior US Men's National Team.
Unfortunately since 2019, Paxton has faced several injury issues. After Dallas were knocked out of the playoffs by Seattle, Pomykal underwent a surgery to repair a core muscle injury, which was reported by the club. (https://www.fcdallas.com/post/2019/10/31/johnny-nelson-paxton-pomykal-undergo-successful-surgery)
The hope was that after that surgery, Paxton would be fit and ready for the 2020 season. Head coach Luchi Gonzalez decided to ease Paxton back into the team when the season started in 2020, bringing him off the bench in the first two games of the year. In the first game, Paxton scored the second goal of the season for Dallas in their 2-0 win against the Philadelphia Union and he looked ready to help lead Dallas to the playoffs once again. It was speculated that Paxton would be starting in FC Dallas' first away game in New York, however the season was put on hold just days before that game.
Image: FC Dallas
After the season's unfortunate break, Paxton only played three more games before he had to undergo surgery once again, this one was reportedly an arthroscopic labrum repair and correction of CAM impingement, according to an article by Jonathan Sigal on MLS' website (https://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2020/09/04/fc-dallas-midfielder-paxton-pomykal-faces-six-month-recovery-after-surgery).
Since the the end of the 2020 season, Paxton has done a couple of interviews and has answered questions on the injury and how he hopes to tackle the 2021 season. ChumChat, a podcast made by FC Dallas homegrown Tanner Tessman, Porto B's Johan Gomez, and Clemson's Judson Burns, had Paxton on as a guest in November (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHQA4ujA_OA).
The KickAround, the soccer segment of the Dallas radio station, the Ticket, also had Paxton on. On there Paxton mentioned that the recovery time for his injury should be about six months. The KickAround puts their show out as a podcast for those who are unable to listen to it live. The episode with the interview is 246, the interview can be found at the 1:31:36 mark. The surgery was done in September and a six month recovery time should put Paxton back with the team, ready to compete this month.
Image: FC Dallas
Paxton was present in the training camp on day 1, however as the club has began to play friendlies, he has yet to be seen on the field for the club. Unfortunately, it was revealed on the 3rd Degree Podcast that he's suffered a setback, this was covered around the 12th minute mark. (https://3rddegree.net/3rd-degree-the-podcast-episode-103-now-available)
The club and the player have not released anything official, giving no one a time table on when Paxton will be available to play.
Image: USA Today Sports Images
The other question is where will Paxton play in 2021. Paxton has mentioned in podcasts before that he sees himself as a 10 or an 8. He enjoys the midfield because he can affect the game there. Last season, however, when Paxton was unavailable, the club decided to bring in a new player to the fill the creative hole they had in the midfield. That player was Andres Ricaurte.
In Ricaurte's 14 games last year, he had 1 goal and 2 assists. He gave Dallas an attacking spark that they missed with Paxton off the field. Tanner Tessman also stepped up and was able to play as the 8 when Acosta was injured, his play in his rookie year earned him his first call-up with the senior USMNT. The midfield has several MLS level players and young guys who need minutes this year. Paxton may not be the main force in the midfield this season.
It is possible that Paxton could play as the left winger. The departure of Mosquera, Picault, and Barrios, has Luchi starting from scratch on the wings. They brought in Freddy Vargas, Kalil ElMedkhar, and Jader Obrian to replace the players they lost. It was also reported on the Dallas Soccer Show that Dallas has acquired a new winger but no name has been revealed yet. When he is back in training and able to compete for a spot, Paxton could challenge Vargas, who is believed to be Dallas' next left winger, for the starting spot.
Image: FC Dallas
2021 will be a year of recovery and regaining match fitness for Paxton. He will probably be used more as a super-sub rather than a starter this year. A role like that does not diminish his skills or his importance to the club, instead it would give him time to build his fitness and allow him to have a long career.
By Melanie G. Isbell