Paxton_pomykal_-_asn_top_-_isi_-_u.s._u-20_wcq_-_nov_1_-_2018_-_roy_k._miller Roy K Miller/ISI Photos
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With big games approaching, Pomykal seeks more U-20 success

Paxton Pomykal, 18, only played limited minutes this season with FC Dallas but has played well with the U.S. U-20 team so far at World Cup qualifying. Now in the second stage, he is aiming to help bring the team to Poland.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 14, 2018
10:00 AM
IN RECENT YEARS, many young American players have used the U-20 national team to springboard their careers. Erik Palmer-Brown, Josh Sargent, Matt Miazga, and Zack Steffen are just a few of the more recent examples.

The current U-20 team is still in its early chapters and it has not even qualified yet for the 2019 U-20 World Cup. A win on Friday against Costa Rica, however, would seal the U.S. team’s spot in Poland.

Midfielder Paxton Pomykal, 18, was one of the best players on the U.S. U-20 team in the first stage of qualifying. He scored three goals but was routinely dangerous in the attack. Now heading into the second stage, he is looking to elevate his games in more important games.

“Qualifiers are a new territory for me. I've never done something like this before,” Pomykal told ASN from the U.S. camp in Florida. “Overall, as a team, we've done what we've wanted to do, which is win and win big. I don't think it changes your mentality, but you have to be physically ready for this. You have to be super-fit and ready to go at all times. You can't rotate a full squad. But we've done a good job with rotation and I think that's testament to how much talent we have here and that everyone can do the job.”

It has been quite the transition for Pomykal who has gone from a bench player at FC Dallas to one of the more important players on the U.S. U-20 team. At FC Dallas, he played in just six games with one start for a total of 124 league minutes.

He is hoping that using his experience with the U-20 team will give him momentum heading into next year’s preseason with FC Dallas.

“This year was difficult for me to break through,” Pomykal explained. “As you can see on the minutes chart, I really didn't get many this year. But to be frank, at FC Dallas, we had a really good year. It's hard [to break through] when your team is doing well but you're not playing because you're winning. It's really nice to come here and be participating and contributing. I am just here trying to do my best for my country and the team to help us win. It's nice to play and get minutes because I did not play much this year. It's good here.”

So far in Florida, Pomykal has thrived in his ability to get into the attack while playing either centrally or out on the wing. In particular, he was the man of the match in the 6-1 win over Trinidad & Tobago – which was expected to be the team’s toughest opponent in this stage.

Even when he hasn’t scored, he has helped open up the game and his teammates have thrived from his distribution so far.

“We've been playing together over two years now,” forward Justin Rennicks said. “At our first camp in Argentina, our chemistry showed there and it kind of escalated. In the past few games, it's really created chances. We're going to try to keep it up.”

Pomykal agrees that he has fit into the team well, so far, and he is fine in any position.

“I've always naturally played in the middle as a No. 10 or No. 8 growing up,” Pomykal said. “But with FC Dallas I've played more on the wing and I've come here and played more on the wing. I've been playing pretty well [on the wing], so I can play both. It's good we can have some versatility because we only have 20 players and versatility is key to squad rotation.”

If the U.S. team does advance to the World Cup next year and Pomykal makes the final team, he is well aware that it will be the biggest stage of his career. Winning is, of course, the ultimate goal but the Lewisville, Texas native also hopes he can use the opportunity to alter his career in the same way many other Americans have done before him.

“I think it's huge,” Pomykal said of the U-20 World Cup. “We're here to play for the team but in the back of our mind, we have to perform individually because we're trying to make a career for ourselves for as long as we can. Everybody wants to win, but in the end of the day every individual has to play to the best of his ability for himself to be seen by scouts - in Europe or wherever they're trying to go. The U-20 World Cup is one of the biggest stages for youth talent.”

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