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What we learned against Minnesota United: Rethinking Luchi-ball

It’s time to drop “Luchi-ball” or at least re-examine what it means

MLS: Minnesota United FC at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

I’m glad we got to have our crisis moment last week, but just as happy that we can turn the page on it. FC Dallas came back to win a game for the first time all season against Minnesota United propelled by two late Brandon Servania goals. The game featured a new formation, a red-hot Santiago Mosquera, and a hat trick of assists for Michael Barrios and Paxton Pomykal. Since we spent all last week criticizing the front office and Luchi, let’s take a moment to rethink how we’ve been evaluating his first season, particularly by throwing around “Luchi-ball.”

The dangers of “Luchi-ball”

After he had managed one MLS game, 3rd Degree dubbed “Luchi-ball” and wrote a tactical preview of how they expect the team to play under the new coach. However, Luchi-ball has taken on a life of its own. It’s now a phrase used by fans and writers alike to describe an aspirational style of play that attempts to hold possession. I appreciate 3rd Degree breaking his tactics down into such detail, but I’m confident that every time “Luchi-ball” is used that people are not using that article as a rubric. If you want to ask if the team is playing Luchi-ball, walk through that article and use it as a checklist. Don’t twist Luchi-ball into meaning whatever you want it to mean. Better yet, don’t use “Luchi-ball” at all.

It’s a fun name, I like using it, but it isn’t fair to allow fans and writers to decide the criteria that is used to evaluate the success of Luchi’s system. He can win, but not play “Luchi-ball” and therefore the team had a bad game because they didn’t play their system. If Luchi arrived and wrote an op-ed explaining how he’s going to play and said: “Fire me if we don’t play Luchi-ball,” then fair enough, but he didn’t make those promises.

Pareja’s tenure was flavored by “Busca la Forma” which was more abstract and philosophical concept than Luchi-ball is. And as a result, easier to implement. It was a set of values, it wasn’t rigid and technical the way Luchi-ball is. How can you tell if a player embodies Luchi-ball? You can’t. You can teach academy kids to play the same system as the senior team, but that doesn’t mean that they’re Luchi-ball players.

Even Maurizio Sarri, whose Sarri-ball is the inspiration for the Luchi-ball name, admitted that he doesn’t know what Sarri-ball is. And his inability to deliver Sarri-ball cost him his job. If you want to examine whether the team has implemented the system promised by Luchi, look back at one of his first interviews with Carter Baum where he says that he wants to field a team of warriors with student mentalities. For a “development-club,” isn’t instilling those values more important than adhering to arbitrary tactics laid out after he had only managed one game?

If you want to judge Luchi, judge him on the criteria he laid out:

Winning an MLS Cup will be our top priority, always, number one. What we want to do is take that, evolve the playing style, evolve our identity and our game model, and then take that next step … This league is trying to create a market for its own players, Homegrown players, that you see in South America, that you see in Europe. So improving player values I think is a priority, so one day we can monetize our first team and monetize our academy based on developing the people we have and one day transferring them and supporting them in their next role – as Oscar’s going through, as other players have gone through.

What does Luchi-ball mean to you? Should we bury it? Should we co-opt it and make it about youth development? What does the future have in store for FC Dallas and Luchi-ball after this week’s exciting result? Let me know in the comments!