Talking with FCD Executive Dan Hunt: Part 1

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

A lengthy chat with HSG VP and new FC Dallas executive Dan Hunt

For context of this piece, please read my MLSsoccer.com profile of Hunt Sports Group and new FCD employee Dan Hunt. Dan was kind enough to grant me a full sit down interview last Friday before the MLS First Kick win over Colorado, where we discussed a number of topics relating to the team and where he sees the direction of things. There was a ton of good stuff that didn't make the article so I wanted to include some of the interview below touching on some major topics. Be sure to let us know what you think about things in the comments below

What does this club mean to you personally?

I think of my dad. Very simply put, I think of my dad. Building this stadium was the last project that he and I got to do together. His health wasn’t good enough to permit him to do much at Arrowhead. Every time I’m here I think of all the things that we did together. He drew the design of the logo at his kitchen counter top and did the same thing for the Chiefs, he drew it all by hand.

What are some of your favorite things about the club?

I couldn’t be more pleased with the group of guys and you need that chemistry. Eric Hassli and I were talking last night and he said only one other time in my life have I been around chemistry like this in a locker room and that was with his Swiss team that won the championship.

What would you like to see improve?

You can never rest and I’d like to see this stadium full every single game. That’s our goal is to get it full every single game. We keep building and improving on this. With the late schedule and early season, it doesn’t help, but there are no excuses. Dallas is an interesting sports market and a very interesting landscape. There’s a lot of competition but.it really is a town of you’ve got to win and if you’re not it’s an extra hard push to get over the finish line but I’d like to see a couple things. The stands full every game and us to sell the naming rights of the stadium and complex. Those are obvious and then to see the trophy case full. My three most important things.

What do you think about the new beer garden and overall atmosphere of the stadium?

It's been great and expanding the beer garden to 475 seats should really create its own environment down there. You can hear them at games and they were loud and I think it’s going to get really loud. That will, I think, inspire other parts of the stadium to be more vocal. As a family, we’re considering making some improvements to the stadium and I think that will help increase crowds and create special areas within the stadium that I think will have their own atmosphere.

FCD, more than many teams, seems to be one that really needs to get games for their young players. With the new partnership with USL Pro, is getting a full time reserve team in here to compete in that league something you'd be interested in?

We’re still working through it here, but I would love for us to have our own team. Do I think that’s going to happen right away? I’m not sure to be honest with you. I think it would be huge for us all though because there are probably 40 or 50 players, including first team in that, that I would love to have under contract.

We develop so many kids in this market and there’s a lot of global competition for those kids with foreign clubs trying to sign them. The more kids we can have under contract here and the higher the level of coaching would be fantastic. I need to get our homegrown kids more games, that’s what they need. They should be playing 30 games a year at least and I’ll be very honest with you, they need the repetition and the competition.

That will also help us grow and spread our brand. I would love for us to do it, but I think we’ve got to sort of baby step our way into it. The more players we can develop here, the better for the club. I want to look up here one day and see half this roster being FC Dallas products. I don’t want to limit that to the metroplex because we have affiliate clubs and we have very talented players that come from other markets that we’re associated with but I think that will help us grow the sport and the brand in the metroplex if people can see Texas kids and go support Texas kids.

Do you prefer the club focuses on signing someone like another Fabian Castillo or go after a guy like Obafemi Martins, a more established, but older and more expensive player?

I go back to the balanced roster approach and that’s where we are. We don’t have the ability to fill the third DP slot this year because you’ve got some very high priced guys. We spent a fair part of the Brek Shea allocation money on this roster this year. We’ve put it right back in to it, Kenny doesn’t come at a small cost, neither does Eric Hassli. We have Blas Perez on the roster and again these are not inexpensive players. We invested right back into the product.

I’ll never rule it out but I look to us to develop players and you look at a player like Castillo, I saw him when he was 17 and you could see the talent but there was some rawness to it and there still is, but the concepts that the coaching staff has been pushing on him, you see him picking up on them. So I would be inclined for us to find those younger players who are hungry. I don’t want to bring in a player, especially a designated player, who takes this as a vacation. This is not a paid for vacation. I’m more inclined[to sign younger players] but I’ll never rule it out. I go back to trying to find the right fit. If you find the right fit with the right mentality, that’s what it’s all about.

Is selling one to sign two or three more players something that can make FCD a contender year in and year out?

I think so. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily been the focus for a lot of teams but our philosophy is to develop the players and keep as many as you can but occasionally you have to give up one to keep the rest of the pieces. That’s the salary cap for you. You’ve got to constantly manage the system, but where we are now with the decisions we’ve made should allow us to keep this roster intact.

We’ve have a lot of turnover over the last few years and that’s not been good. If I can keep this roster intact, that’s how you build and win championships. You’ll change out two or three players every year, it’s inevitable because people will age out or be out of contract so you have to constantly manage it. If you just sit around until the end of the season it’s too late.

Coming in part two we talk about possible stadium improvements, the future of Schellas and where Doug Quinn will be missed within the organization.

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