It’s a season of change in Frisco!
Today, Luchi Gonzalez is officially unveiled as the new Head Coach of our beloved FC Dallas squad. I know some fans have reacted with an emphatic “meh” to this hire, but it’s an exciting time. Oscar Pareja leaves behind a roster stocked with potential and a culture that has been impressive in its consistency and success. Luchi has an opportunity to pick up where Pareja left off.
Coach Gonzalez brings legitimate positives to FC Dallas. He knows many of the young players that are poised to make their debut, having worked with them and helped them grow and succeed as an academy coach and Academy Director. His longevity with the club, since 2012, means he is more than familiar with the talents and skills of guys like Matt Hedges, Michael Barrios, and Carlos Gruezo. Dan Hunt and Clark Hunt, among others, know and trust Luchi. Best of all, Gonzalez values the culture of FC Dallas, a family environment where love and respect are key.
I do get that some fans have questions, many of which are of a technical nature, about the new head coach. What formation will Gonzalez employ? What kind of staff is he going to surround himself with? Will the team play with attacking urgency, press their opponents, look to get out on the break, or find some balance? These are questions which will mostly be settled on the pitch, in training, and in announcements to come.
Today, I want to offer up some of my own questions, though these won’t be answered solely on the pitch or a press conference. These are the kinds of questions that may take a season or two before we really discover who Luchi Gonzalez is and how he plans to reshape FC Dallas for the present and the future. Maybe you share my curiosity.
How will Luchi integrate the youth movement with existing, quality veterans?
This may sound like a technical question, but Luchi Gonzalez as Head Coach means that the youth movement for FC Dallas is in full swing. While he surely appreciates the veterans on FC Dallas’ squad, he knows, trusts, and values the youngsters too. He has history with them. For a veteran player, this makes the situation extra tricky. How do you impress a head coach and cement your spot when the whole organization is making clear that a commitment to youth is happening now? Furthermore, how will Luchi manage the expectations of this team and squad chemistry when veterans who may be practicing better and clearly be more prepared for game day start on the bench in favor of a youngster getting crucial minutes? This is going to be a challenging test for a new coach to maintain squad harmony and get big time results.
How will Luchi rebound from a devastating loss?
Most leaders know that the times that truly test you are the ones where nothing goes as planned. Luchi has experience with academy teams, some of which are tough, competitive situations, but youth coaching isn’t quite on the larger stage of Major League Soccer. One mistake, poorly timed sub, or half-thought tactical switch can swing a positive result to negative in an instant. What will Luchi do? How will he rally the team? How will he adjust, learn, and grow after a tough loss? Coach Gonzalez has some professional soccer experience, but the league has grown immeasurably since his time. This will be a real challenge for fans to watch to see how he grows as a coach on a new, higher stakes level, and it will be fascinating to see how he pulls together a distraught squad after conceding a late goal. Even the best coaches struggle with this... How will Luchi adjust?
Will Luchi have his favorites?
Sometimes, fans rightfully complained that it seemed like Oscar Pareja returned time and time to his favorite players, even when the results weren’t going their way. Sometimes, those favorites delivered, but often, they didn’t. Too often, in fact. I think frustration on the part of our fan base was justified in some of those instances, but a coach ultimately has to make a decision on who they think is best for a lineup or situation. Will Luchi carry forward in this kind of vein, or is he going to be far more willing to take risks or try new faces to get a result? We will definitely be watching for this over the next few seasons as the youth movement in Frisco takes hold.
How long will it take Luchi to get up to speed?
The adjustment that it is going to take for Coach Gonzalez to adapt to the speed, tactics, and physicality of MLS play is real. I have no doubt that FC Dallas will be competitive from opening match, but other coaches and squads are going to find ways to exploit Luchi’s “green” status. I’ll be watching carefully to see how tactics and adjustments, even by mid-season, begin to look. Will Luchi be a fast learner, or will it take him a long run of games to become the coach he is likely destined to be?
What will be Luchi’s stamp on this organization?
Oscar Pareja brought his personality to every performance. His teams competed in an organized way with room for individual freedom. Papi wanted his players to “la busca forma”/find their way. Before him, Schellas Hyndman brought a buttery leather jacket and a love of brutal defensive midfielders. Now, Luchi gets his opportunity in the coming years to shape this team and organization with his personality. What will we remember Luchi for? What new wrinkle will he bring to the way FC Dallas plays and presents themselves on and off the pitch?
These are a few of my questions that I am excited to see answer in the years to come. I trust that Dan Hunt and company got the right guy for the job. The future is bright. FC Dallas is in good hands, but I am sure your have questions you are looking to have answered too. If so, share them below. What are you looking to see Luchi Gonzalez answer in the coming seasons at the helm of our beloved FC Dallas?