Senior, freshman brothers play side-by-side on soccer team
From Peyton and Eli Manning to Venus and Serena Williams, sibling athletes can have some of the strongest rivalries, but for Dalton and Daaron McFarling the deep bond formed as teammates only strengthens their bond as brothers.
Both on the men’s soccer team, they are playing together for the first time in their career. Dalton is coming off a career season for the Comets. He started all 19 games for the team last year and gained all-ASC second team honors. Heading into the season, he was tabbed as the ASC preseason defensive player of the year.
Daaron, on the other hand, is in his freshmen year on the squad. The rookie from Lovejoy High School was named the district 10-5A MVP as a senior and led his squad to three district titles, a sectional title and an area title throughout his high school career.
Oddly enough, the talent Dalton showed for the team early on wasn’t what made head coach Jason Hirsch seek out his younger brother.
“I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I think (Hirsch) ended up at one of his soccer games,” Dalton said. “And he’s like ‘I’m pretty sure I watched your brother play this weekend … he looks pretty good. I think he’d fit in here.’”
Despite his lack of experience at the collegiate level, Daaron has shown some promise early on. He even started the team’s first game of the season.
“Physically he’s got the tools, mentally he’s got the right attitude towards the game,” Hirsch said. “Technically, skill wise, he’s got the tools that he needs to play at that position, so we’re hoping he can step up and help us right away, which is what looks like is going to happen.”
Oddly enough, one of the major factors that allowed Dalton and Daaron to play together at UTD in the first place was a mix of timing and a bit of bad luck.
Dalton, who started his collegiate career playing for Trinity, got injured his first year there. He received a medical redshirt, which allowed him to transfer to UTD and maintain his four years of eligibility.
“The thing is, if Dalton had played his first year at Trinity and didn’t get the medical redshirt, they wouldn’t have played together,” Hirsch said. “If I had a family member in the same sport as me, and I had the opportunity to play with them for a year, I think that would be a great thing.”
This series of events allowed for the brothers to play together for the first time.
Now that they are playing together, the brothers have to deal with a bit of a competitive instinct between each other.
“It’s like a father-son fight, you know?” Dalton said. “The father is going to die before he lets his son beat him up.”
For Daaron, the pressure of living up to his older brother’s legacy brings about its own unique challenges.
“It’s motivation for me,” he said. “Because if I screw up, I hear it almost 24 hours. So it’s just motivation for me to work harder because he’s always watching me, and he’s always mentored me.”
On the field, they’re primarily defensive players, forming the final layer of defense for the Comets before the ball gets to the keeper.
Daaron lines up as a right back and Dalton mans the left side of the two central defenders. Even though they play on opposite sides of the defense, they still have to communicate with each other more so than other players.
When they were growing up, however, Dalton was always a defensive player and Daaron was more offensive, according to their father, Brad McFarling. This placement on opposite sides of the field helped to foster the sibling rivalry between the two.
“That just drew out the competition between them,” he said. “One just thinks he can score all the time, the other thinks he can stop him all the time.”
Despite those strong feelings, the two have found playing together has only helped them bond so far. Daaron said having Dalton there to guide him has helped his transition into the team easier, telling him about the veterans and how he should act around the other players.
Growing up, Dalton presented a similar sort of influence and mentorship to his younger sibling. Soccer was a mostly foreign concept to the family before a friend asked if Daaron wanted to join his son on a team.
This set up the stage for the brothers’ careers in soccer. Even though Dalton played football in high school, he said he enjoyed soccer more.
From there, Daaron walked the path his older brother had paved.
“Pretty much our stories are the same,” he said. ”I’ve always followed him.”
The relationship between the two doesn’t end at the sidelines. Off the field, the two enjoy playing video games together and sharing a common love for Liverpool F.C. Dalton, who is getting married in December, even named his younger brother as the best man for his upcoming wedding.
“They’re as close as any two boys I’ve seen,” their father said. “They battle it out between themselves, but don’t get between them. They’re very close. They’re best friends.”
As members of the men’s soccer team, their role as players will be judged for better or for worse on how they play together as part of a team.
In Dalton’s eyes, the bond they share off the field will only increase their level of play on it.
“Whenever you’re playing on a field with 11 guys, you’re fighting for your brothers, and now you got one that’s blood. It kind of changes the game a little bit,” Dalton said. “He doesn’t want to screw up because he doesn’t want to hear about it. I don’t want to screw up because I want to show him how it’s done right.”