With Luchi Gonzalez in the rearview mirror, there are many questions not sitting well with FC Dallas fans alike.
What’s next? Or more importantly, who is next?
For all of his talk of building an identity, three years later, Luchi Gonzalez’ tenure as a head coach pinpoints the ongoing issues plaguing this franchise for a while - a disconnect between fans and front office, a disconnect between the talent on the field and lofty self-imposed expectations among staff, a disconnect between a desire to win and poor results in the transfer market, a disconnect between a thriving international soccer community in DFW and a suburban mentality in Frisco.
This chasm challenges the idea that the next FC Dallas head coach will be an easy hire. It’s a huge moment for the franchise when the squad has a budding international superstar in Ricardo Pepi and attention aplenty from major teams in Europe for their ability to develop talent. Luchi Gonzalez showcased his limitations in under three years in the head coaching role, but he also emphasized his strengths - bringing young players along, developing them, and selling them for profit.
What kind of balance does FC Dallas desire? What will they grade the next head coach on - developing talent and winning hardware? One more than the other? How can they do that when they will get tantalizing offers from major clubs on an annual basis and want to do right by the players? What kind of coach could tick all of those boxes, especially when the front office can’t seem to get international acquisitions right? Will future coaches still be expected to spin gold out of straw?
Pretty much every FC Dallas hire falls into three broad categories, and each has its challenge. More than likely, the one key indicator of where FC Dallas goes is someone with a connection to the club who knows the culture. That makes it a lot easier to predict possibilities. Here are a few.
From the FC Dallas side of things, there are a few names who stick out, including Peter Luccin, Eric Quill, and Marco Ferruzzi himself.
Peter Luccin is an assistant coach for the past couple of years after finishing his career with FC Dallas. He’s a dark horse candidate, maybe deserving a conversation due to his familiarity with the club and European connections and history. I have no idea what players think of him or how he rates in Dan Hunt’s pecking order. Frankly, he’s an unknown and seems unlikely as the next choice.
Eric Quill is likewise an interesting choice, and maybe if North Texas SC were competing near the top of the standings, you could consider him a hot hire at the moment. His work developing youngsters with North Texas and their attacking style of play are points in his favor, but MLS is a different beast. It’s a leap of faith, though, as the jump from USL-1 to MLS is vast. I think it’s unlikely he becomes a serious candidate at this time.
The one candidate with the inside track is interim head coach Marco Ferruzzi, confirmed as such by Dan Hunt and Andres Zanotta during their recent press release. If he can right the ship and get the team into the playoffs, Dan Hunt and company will give him the job straight away. Ferruzzi has a ton of experience and was likely considered for the position when Pareja moved on, but how he can do with this group of players in this pressure cooker situation is kind of an unknown. Part of me wants to be cynical. Wouldn’t Dan Hunt prefer this scenario in order to take the pressure off getting that next hire right? Marco is someone he already knows well.
Don’t be surprised if FC Dallas sticks with another internal hire.
You can fill this space with former MLS head coaches, current assistant coaches, and other guys who are familiar with Major League Soccer. Obviously, you would be really excited about a guy in the vein of Gonzalo Pineda, long time MLS assistant coach and player, who has fit Atlanta’s culture like a glove. Is there another guy like that, ready to take the next step?
Oscar Pareja is back in the league and working wonders for Orlando, but I doubt he leaves Florida to return to Frisco. No other former head coach intrigues, especially after the disaster of Chris Armas’ brief tenure in Toronto.
Among former FC Dallas players, you wonder if someone like Dax McCarty or Kenny Cooper would get a look. Dax has been in the announcer’s booth lately, maybe with an eye toward retirement. Kenny Cooper has gotten reacquainted with the team in recent months after moving back to Dallas. Both have ties to the club, but it seems to be a huge stretch that they would be ready for a top job. Maybe you look at a guy like Landon Donovan, but Landon has every right to be patient and look for the right opportunity. Is FC Dallas it? And do we even want him?
The biggest fit might be Jason Kreis, but I hope that ship has sailed. Jason is a fine guy and earned his success in the past. His ties to FC Dallas are numerous as well as some potential disconnects. Do we have confidence that he can do it again?
From my perspective, I would put feelers out for a conversation with Robin Fraser. The guy has worked wonders with a limited cupboard in Colorado and is proving a good track record of developing young players. I doubt he would consider the move to Dallas anything other than a lateral move, but why not? He would instantly improve Dallas’ outlook and have more tools to work with.
Frankly, I just don’t think the next coach comes from Major League Soccer. Can anyone rightly name a hot candidate off the top of their head?
Dan Hunt likes to keep things in the family, so someone they are familiar with who knows FC Dallas culture seems key. But maybe this experience with Luchi is going to open Dan Hunt to cast a wide net and explore something like DC United’s hiring of Hernan Losado, a move which has reinvigorated a struggling team.
A name that surfaced early with ties to FC Dallas is Pablo Richetti. We even heard from a little birdy or two expressing his interest in the position, but this depends on FC Dallas being interested. Pablo has academy experience, so he might be a fresh face and presence. Or it may be a stretch.
Add Lionel Alvarez as a consideration as well.
Other ideas, even dreaming about a guy like Bayern Munich 2’s Martin Demichelis, would be so exciting and a huge step in the right direction. But can you convince a guy like that to come to Dallas and work with the parts in the cupboard? Is there a guy like Losado who might make more sense? Will Dan Hunt and company listen and give them an opportunity?
A South American coach looks possible, especially someone that Andres Zanotta has ties to and can work with. Renato Gaucho is a name to consider, whether or not he is ready to depart Flamingo, because of his relationship with Zanotta. Maybe there are other candidates who will emerge with a track record that suits where Frisco needs to go.
I’m not holding my breath though on this front though.
Dan Hunt claimed in the presser today that they had candidates with EPL and UEFA champions league experience in the mix the last time around. They didn’t go forward with those candidates then, so what makes things different now?
FC Dallas is going to do everything it can to give Marco Ferruzzi a chance to earn the position. Maybe he’s ready. Maybe he is what FC Dallas needs, even if it’s not the sexy hire. Maybe he will correct the defensive miscues and get the squad playing better in a short amount of time, proving he is the one.
But, I’m not holding my breath.
If Marco doesn’t work out, I’m not expecting the big splash of a coach that fans would like to see. No, Dallas likely doesn’t grab an assistant coach from Bayern Munich. No, I don’t think a Hernan Losado type candidate appears. Whoever it is probably has some sort of FC Dallas connection and has more experience than Luchi did at this time. For sure, that likely rules out Eric Quill or Peter Luccin.
FC Dallas may surprise us fans. I hope they do. Even if they go for a relatively new face or an unknown, one thing was clear from the press conference - they know this is a big moment and have to get it right. For one thing, how much longer will they have Ricardo Pepi in the mix? The clock is ticking.