By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
On Saturday, FC Dallas will kick off their 2019 season against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. This game will also mark the debut of first-year FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez.
He was named the team’s head coach on Dec. 15. He replaced Óscar Pareja, who resigned on Nov. 16, 2018.
“It’s an honor,” Gonzalez said. “It’s something in my prior role with the club, I was focused on being the head coach of the first team. I believe in being the best for the club. The team asked me to go through the process — and I did. I’m a competitor and I’m going to try to always step up when called upon. I’m really honored to have the role.
“I’m happy to be leading the club into their next step. It means everything to me to be the new FC Dallas head coach.”
This is the 38-year-old Hialeah, Florida native’s first head coaching experience at the MLS level. He has been with the team in various roles since the 2012 season.
“I’ve worked in the Academy in different levels and it absolutely helped me understand the club, the community, the philosophy, values of our ownership, the values of our people — not just who they are as workers,” Gonzalez said. “I feel great knowing the upper management and knowing the people in different departments, people in the academy, and youth clubs.
“My daughter and son play youth soccer — and my daughter is in the club. I think it’s great to be able to have a relationship that shows my roots here at FC Dallas.”
Being that Gonzalez has been established in the team, he has been able to see the homegrown players grow through the academy and making the top-team roster.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Those players I know quite well. They have played for me in some point in time in the Academy. I was part of their process, as they earned professional contracts. It’s a great thing to know them and be connected with them. But at the same time, I have to treat them like all the other players that I don’t know so well, right? I have to be fair in that way, as the manager and the leader. I want to make sure that they feel like they’re part of the unit, part of the team.
“In one end, it’s great to have that personal connection with them, but on the other, they have to know they’re fighting for spots, as they attempt to make the roster, and earn playing time every week.
When Gonzalez interviewed for the position, he presented a thorough plan for the future.
“For the most part, it was a vision about how far we have come as a club and where we are today, thanks to the prior commitments to the work of the staff,” he admitted. “Thanks to the work of Óscar [Óscar Pareja] and how we moved into this area with FC Dallas and the new stadium. I also talked about how we have grown in the academy. It was about reflecting on how far we have come and what lies ahead in the future. I showed objectives and strategies — things on and off the field — that I believe the club could accomplish with its soccer and attracting its fan base.
“I believe it’s important to connect with the fan base and the community. I also talked about the player value so that they can play with the first team. I also talked about soccer and business connected ideas that I feel very passionately about that I have been part.”
FC Dallas finished fourth in the Western Conference during the 2018 season. The team went 16-9-9 in 34 games with 57 points.
The team was tied with Los Angeles FC, who also had 57 points. But since their goal differential was better with a +16 compared to FC Dallas’ +8, they received the third seed in the playoffs.
As a new coach, though, Gonzalez is trying to establish his own culture with the team.
“First of all, knowing our culture is knowing our past and embracing our past,” he said. “With full respect to the previous head coach and his staff, we have to preserve a lot of what’s here — in terms of our diversity in our locker room, tactical discipline, our humility with the team. I want to preserve and maintain a lot of our current strengths from 2018. I was part of that too, because I was here. I was in the training and I was part of the club. I was helping and doing anything I could with my part in my role. Oscar is a big mentor to me. To me, I am different than Oscar, but a lot of the work that I will do is similar to Oscars. Then, there’s things that will be different. Me and my staff will try to influence our players into our next step, as we have to evolve.
“For me, I believe Oscar would be very proud of that, as we are maintaining the strength that were in place and taking them to the next step. What does that mean? It means adjusting the style of play and knowing we have this great tactical foundation to take the next step. I want to try to create more opportunities around and inside the box. I want to have high-percentage finishes. I want us to be able to get points away from home and not just at home. I think there’s some great opportunities for the next step. I don’t believe in this overhaul or these big steps. I want to make subtle — silent but deadly changes — and that’s the way we’re going to work.”
In the off-season, FC Dallas has added Bryan Acosta, Zdeněk Ondrášek, Bressan (real name Matheus Bressanelli). In addition, the team used their 2019 first-round picks on Callum Montgomery and John Nelson.
“They’re all good human beings with reputations of high character. That’s so important for our culture. Also, coming with that is talent with experience in other leagues around the world. We have proven to do well through the scouting in our club. These aren’t guys that appeared months ago, as we have been tracking them for the last six months to a year. Bryan Acosta is a name we’ve been tracking for the last year and a half. We’re excited to have them here and contribute to the locker room.
“They will contribute to our depth and will compete with our current roster to be the best that we can be. We have lost some value pieces, but we have gained some good pieces, as well. That’s real exciting for me to already be working with.”
Gonzalez wants the fans to understand their commitment to the jersey and their community.
“A team that 1) understands what they represent in terms of that jersey and this community in a humble way and in a very hard-working way, as well. A team that is going to have personality, who is going to fight in every moment until the end. That wants to pursue the game, who wants to control as much of the game as they can with time and space and moments of pressure, moments of possession, always with the focus of scoring and passing. I want them to find ways to get close to the opponents goal, doing it in the process of 90 minutes to get a win.
“It needs to be energetic and there needs to be commitment from all 11 players on the field with togetherness. There’s going to be ups and downs, but we have to be a club that never gives up. We have to be a club that always responds.”
Each team has goals for their respective season. Gonzalez said the team goals will be about what the players want.
“Those are forming. To me, those are involved with the players. The players to me are the protagonists in the game, in the training. It is so important to me that our goals are inline with the players. I, myself, and our staff have our ideas in our goals, but it’s important that it’s the team goals and the players are involved in that process. It’s important we’re together in deciding our goals so that we take ownership on and off the field to accomplish these goals. I don’t believe in telling them what the goals should be.
“I believe in forming it together with them, as a team — everything about making the playoffs and creating value for the players, for our people — it’ll be along those lines. Those are being decided as we speak, as a team.”