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Meet the best player development staff in MLS: FC Dallas

A closer look at Oscar Pareja’s staff and the part that they have played in FCD’s recent successes.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup Final-New England Revolution vs FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 season is upon us as the club prepares for another grueling campaign. It’s a good time to take another look back at the most successful year in FC Dallas history before the new season gets underway.

We’ve seen plenty of praise and acclaim given to many people operating in various capacities at the club following FCD’s U.S. Open Cup and Supporters’ Shield triumphs last year, ranging from players to the head coach to the front office management. What we haven’t seen enough of, though, is that sort of praise and adulation directed towards the less prominent names who played a major part in the team’s successes despite not spending much time in the limelight.

Those names would be of those working in the first team coaching staff. Although Oscar Pareja has certainly received well-deserved attention and admiration throughout the nation for steering this team to two trophies in his third year as head coach by winning the MLS Coach of the Year award last month. His supporting cast in the staff has not received anywhere near as much attention. This article will attempt to change some of that though and provide more insight into the roles each of Pareja’s staff members play at the club and the responsibilities and obligations they have here.

Fernando Clavijo - Technical Director

Probably the biggest name in the club’s current hierarchy after Pareja and the Hunt family. Clavijo has had an imprint on the success of the first team over the past few years thanks to his impressive scouting, recruitment, and ability to find talented players and bring them to Frisco on a restricted budget on a yearly basis. Since arriving in March 2012, Clavijo has built up a reputation for himself as one of the best talent spotters in the league. He has had a relatively high success rate on his signings considering that he’s working with a lower budget than most of the teams in MLS.

Along with his work, Clavijo handles other work around the club, including helping start the partnership with OKC Energy. He also oversees the club’s academy which has had a lot of success at various age levels recently. He manages the salary cap and other financial resources like allocation money through smart contractual negotiations and transfer business.

As a technical director with several different job titles, Clavijo is always involved in the thick of things in various areas and has performed well in this capacity. Which is why many consider him one of the masterminds behind Dallas’ success and one of the best at what he does in the country.

Luiz Muzzi - Director of Soccer Operations and Assistant Tech. Director

Muzzi assists Clavijo with spotting young talents abroad and the process of trying to lure them into the club. As the Director of Soccer Operations, he oversees and evaluates all of the club’s programs and operations from the first team down to the youth teams where he plays a hand in recruiting the coaches for them. His job is to ensure that FCD is operating according to its missions, values, and visions. He also makes sure all the club’s strategic plans and projects are being executed well.

Muzzi is the link between the hierarchy of the front office management led by the Hunts and the coaching staff of the first and various youth teams. Having been in this role for four years now and when considering the club’s progress on both a business and sporting perspective, it’s safe to say that he’s done more than an adequate job in his time at Dallas to date.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at FC Dallas Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Marco Ferruzzi & Jose Maria Bazan - Assistant Coaches

Pareja’s two right-hand men have several shared responsibilities but also a few separate ones. Although they both have a duty to designing session plans, running training sessions, and evaluating players for the first team, Ferruzzi also has a hand in scouting college and youth players for the club and conducts the staff preparations for the MLS Combine and SuperDraft. He’s been around at the club longer than any of the current members of the coaching staff as an assistant coach. He once served as the reserve team coach and was once an interim head coach for the team.

Josema Bazan has been Pareja’s closest partner ever since Pareja entered the world of coaching. The two linked up during their days in the club’s academy. He didn’t end up following Pareja to Colorado in 2012, but the pair ended up working together once again when Papi returned to Frisco two years later and have formed a formidable, successful pairing once again, this time at the first team level.

Fabian Bazan - Strength & Conditioning Coach

One of the people in the staff who isn’t as well known nationally but has received some praise for his contributions is Fabian Bazan. Having joined at the club in 2015, Bazan handles conducting and managing strength and conditioning exercises. This helps the players improve from a physical and athletic standpoint. With FCD having scored 13 of its 50 league goals last season in the final 15 minutes of the game while also suffering a lower amount of serious injuries throughout the year, it’s safe to say that Bazan’s efforts with the squad have been paying off.

Many in the local circle have come to believe that Bazan has become a vital cog in the coaching staff. His methods have improved the team’s physical preparations and the fitness levels of several players, both in and off-season. It’s only a matter of time before he wins more praise from a wider audience too.

Drew Keeshan - Goalkeeping Coach

Keeshan has been the goalkeeping coach for the club for a decade now and he’s seen a lot of good keepers come and go throughout his time here. Keeshan is notable for the part he played in the development of Jesse Gonzalez who had a rough 2016 campaign having lost his starting gig to Chris Seitz early in the season and failing to recapture throughout the rest of the year.

The Seitz-Gonzalez battle was one of the fiercest competitions in the Dallas squad in 2016. While Seitz came out on top for most of it, Gonzalez did not let his backup status affect his confidence and drop his head. Keeshan must have played a part in considering his importance to the youngster’s career, which still made for a challenging, healthy competition between the pairing and not a sour one that ended for one of the two in the end as we’ve seen happen many times over the years.

Dr. James C. Walter II - Medical Director

Walter is the leader of the club’s medical department and specializes in arthroscopy, an orthopedic surgery that diagnoses and treats joint problems. Walter provides quality care to athletes at all levels throughout the country. He has the experience and know-how in this area to be the main man in his department at the club.

Skylar Richards & Tracy Coleman - Athletic Trainers

This pair work together as the team’s athletic trainers with Richards being the main man in this position. They both work with Walter to implement injury prevention protocols, evaluate injuries, give emergency care, develop functional movement analysis, and create rehabilitation plans for injured players.

FCD had to deal with some fairly serious setbacks when it comes to injuries with the likes of Matt Hedges, Mauro Diaz (the one at the start of the season, not the torn Achilles), and Ryan Hollingshead. Thanks to the help of the sports and medicine department, they were able to recuperate swiftly and effectively with no relapses of their injuries. The first team has also had a relatively normal count of injury problems over recent seasons. The athletic trainers should take a chunk of the credit for that thanks in part to their efforts in ensuring that the players take to the field each week as physically well prepared as possible.

There’s also some less heralded members of the coaching staff, including Gustavo Gomez who is the team administrator. He takes care of travel bookings, hotel reservations, transportation, and scheduling meals for the team in his role. Marcus Owens is the equipment manager and handles purchasing and maintaining uniforms, practice gear, and setting up practices for home and away games. Amy Goodson is the team’s sports nutritionist and dietitian, she works with individual players to help them find the right diet to promote optimal performance.

These positions may not get as much attention as they should any major sport. The people working in them contribute so much to the smooth operations of the team in a day-to-day environment which often does get grossly under-appreciated by the people on the outside.

All in all, it’s clear to see that everyone has a part to play within the club’s coaching staff. The time they’ve all spent together working as a unit has brought out the best in them. They’ve grown and matured through the years they’ve all been at FC Dallas. Pareja may take most of the accolades and the plaudits as the leader of the pack, but he would be the first to admit that the success he and the team have had wouldn’t be possible without the work and collaborative effort from each of his staff members.