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01/15/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/15/2020 10:51

LUCHI: 'Our relationship with SMU is very important.'

FRISCO, Texas - The signings of Eddie Munjoma and Philip Ponder by FC Dallas and North Texas SC are just the latest examples of the long-standing relationship between SMU Men's Soccer program and the FCD organization.

Owners Clark and Dan Hunt are both alumni (Clark even captained the soccer team during his time there) and head coach Luchi Gonzalez played four seasons for the Mustangs-becoming their first and only Hermann Trophy winner. Further, former head coach Schellas Hyndman led SMU for 24 years before taking the reins at FCD in 2008.

And the relationship isn't limited to the leadership level. Past FCD players Ramon Nunez, Bruno Guarda, Daniel Hernandez, Ugo Ihemelu and Jordan Cano are all former Mustangs.

'Our relationship with SMU is very important,' said Luchi Gonzalez, who was also college teammates with SMU's current head coach Kevin Hudson. 'It's the only local Division I men's program. We're always going to have a connection with them and we've had other players come through that have helped this club, so it's important that we have a close relationship to keep track and stay connected.'

While FC Dallas has a history of borrowing from SMU, it isn't a one-sided relationship. The FCD Academy is among the best in the nation and its proximity to SMU is a valuable recruiting tool.

'We believe the North Texas market is top three in terms of identifying talent,' SMU coach Kevin Hudson explained. 'FC Dallas Academy is the pinnacle of that market and it's in our back yard, so we have a distinct advantage being 25 miles down the road. Those guys are really well trained from under 10 through U-19 and the transition to college for those players is seamless; it's not a massive jump for them. Every FC Dallas player we have is well prepared for that next step in the careers.

'It's something we pride ourselves on, we recruit the best FC Dallas guys that fit what we're looking for. The top guys at FCD tend to be a really good fit at SMU. We know they're going to be fantastic players. We also know that culture that's built there through the Academy. Those guys are always hard-working young men with a really good future in front of them.'

For players like Munjoma and Ponder, their SMU collegiate careers can help bridge the gap between the Academy and pro levels. Not every 18-year-old Academy player is ready for MLS, and a few college seasons can help raise their game to earn a pro contract.

'I think definitely matured as a player and a person,' Munjoma said on his time at SMU. 'I grew a little bit and started paying closer attention to details and certain things that I was more oblivious to while I was here (in the Academy). So it definitely helped me out a lot, I got a degree and have an education in my pocket but obviously I'm ready to take the next step and be a professional.'

For Hudson, the winning culture and selflessness imparted on FCD Academy players meshes well with SMU's philosophy and ambitions-another reason the symbiotic connection has been so fruitful over the years.

'It's a winning culture,' Hudson said. 'This year we had Eddie (Munjoma), Philip (Ponder) and Brandon Terwege in our first XI and those guys know what it's like to win a national championship. Winning is just what those guys do. The winning mentality of the guy that's putting the culture of the team first, and sacrificing for the good of the team, that's been instilled at FC Dallas and we're happy to continue that on.'