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What went wrong for Luchi Gonzalez and FC Dallas

In the end, he got a pretty raw deal for his first professional manager gig.

MLS: FC Dallas at Colorado Rapids C. Morgan Engel-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday certainly came as a bit of a shock to every FC Dallas fan. While I think deep down we all knew it could easily happen if things continued to point downwards (and they certainly did after Saturday’s Texas Derby loss to Houston), I think we all thought of a change of the guard were to happen with this club, it would have been in the offseason.

Well, that is partly true now. We’re back to Marco Ferruzzi as an interim boss for the third time in a decade or so.

I floated a question out to a couple of folks on Saturday night and Sunday morning, asking was Luchi truly in hot water after a Derby loss? My gut was telling me that it would be very bold for a move that we see so often in other sports when a team doing poorly loses to a rival that they really shouldn’t lose to. My response was all the same as it has been this season, “who knows what Dan and Clark are thinking.”

So yeah, now we do.

So where did it all go wrong for Luchi Gonzalez? I’m sure this list doesn’t even cover half of it but it feels like a decent start.

Tactics just never really caught on

When “Luchi-ball” worked, it was fun. The defense and build-up play was there, the attack had some nice moments and of course, the youngsters got loads of minutes. But at times, especially this season, it felt Luchi was either trying to have this club be something that they aren’t in terms of formation and look, or he was never really given the proper players to play the system that he wanted to implement.

Just look at the beginning of the season. He ran out a 3-5-2 variation a couple of times and it never caught on. The first thing missing in it was the three in the back weren’t as athletic as you really needed them to be to cover the space that might have been given up along the wings. Then the wingbacks never really got where he needed them to be thanks to injuries or just players learning a new position. The midfield couldn’t keep up with it either and then the attack just seemed to lack a bite or energy about it that could create chances.

I do give Luchi credit for noticing all this and adapting. It should be noted that those early games also saw fewer Homegrown players in the lineup and when those guys got their chances, the results started to come in. Still, it took a while this season to get to the lineup and look that we’ve gotten used to over the last month and a half.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Poor performances out of foreign signings

It is easy to blame this one on the front office but there is also some sign-off on these signings for Luchi as well. Well, maybe not with Franco Jara but that feels like a discussion for another day. I believe we all know Luchi got stuck with him. I know we’ve all burned through too much energy on how poor Jara has been for this club in 2021. Normally, when a high-priced striker has issues and the manager gets outed in a season, it is because there is some obvious public beef between the two. I don’t believe that is the case here.

Anyways, outside of Jara, if you look at those brought in this season, have any really lived up to the expectations we got when we first had a look in the preseason? Maybe Jader Obrian but if you take the last week out of the mix, he’d only have a pair of goals. Maybe Szabolcs Schon, though I do think the international duty and travel is starting to show on this kid.

But look at the other additions for this season and it tells you a couple of things. Freddy Vargas has largely been a bust and is now having to earn minutes with North Texas SC (but hey, he’s scoring goals there, so I guess it isn’t all bad). Jose Martinez has been injured most of the season (more on that in a minute). Homegrown player Beni Redzic has also been out injured for most of this season. Collin Smith, Nicky Hernandez, and Kalil ElMedkhar have all really just seen minutes with NTSC, though ElMedkhar has seen some decent FCD minutes that give me hope in his future with the club.

I know you could easily go back to 2020 and 2019 and look at those players brought into the club and find more examples of poor signings (as good as Fafa Picault has been in Houston this season, he was largely a bust here in Dallas). Andres Ricarute has seen some flashes of good but has largely also been a bit of a bust here. After the last few games, I think it is safe to say that Phelipe is not the goalkeeper of the future for this team either.

MLS: Inter Miami CF at FC Dallas Tim Flores-USA TODAY Sports

Can’t sell everyone

I’m all for the team making a profit. I am. But we are seeing that it is starting to come at a large expense. You can’t sell as many players as the club has done over the last three years and not re-invest it properly back into the club. FC Dallas has just not found the balance of being a selling club that also needs to win domestically.

We know the list of players sold under Luchi too. Reggie Cannon, Bryan Reynolds, Thiago Santos, Tanner Tessmann, Zdenek Ondrasek, Chris Richards, and Carlos Gruezo. Plus the in-league trades of Michael Barrios, Tesho Akindele, Picault, Jacori Hayes, Victor Ulloa, and Maxi Urruti. Throw in the mid-season contract termination last year of Jesse Gonzalez and you have almost a starting eleven there.

Transfers and trades are part of the game but when you lose out on that much talent in order to make a profit and the talent you bring in doesn’t live up to who they’re replacing, it is going to be tough for any young manager to cope with.

MLS: FC Dallas at Colorado Rapids C. Morgan Engel-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries piled up and wrecked the defense

Look, injuries are just part of the game. We know that. But this season has felt like it has been one hit after the next. We’ve seen the core of the defense with Martinez and Matt Hedges out for long spells. John Nelson was dealing with back issues, which caused a shutdown and surgery for him. Now we’re seeing Jimmy Maurer go in and out of being healthy, Bressan having some injury issues, and being the club’s utility man is possibly catching up to Ryan Hollingshead too.

In a way, the list does go on and on but the defensive losses to injuries this season have been so noticeable. Not having a consistent back four and goalkeeper has probably been one of the toughest things for Luchi and his coaching staff to overcome this season. Since the home loss to Sporting KC back in mid-August, FC Dallas has given up 18 goals in eight games. That’s a little over two goals a game. Overall this season, they’ve given up 43 goals through 26 games. While there are teams that have given up more goals than FCD this season (Toronto’s 51 leads the way), it feels like this could easily go down as one of the worst defensive performances in club history from the team in some time.

Consistency does matter in this league. This season, FC Dallas has fielded 23 different lineups in 26 games only using the same lineup in back-to-back games on June 27/July 4, July 17/July 21, and July 31/Aug. 4.

Maybe a bit of bad luck?

I know discussing luck with any coach or player is a tricky subject but Luchi was always a bit more transparent and honest about this kind of thing. From time to time this season, he did mention that the team was just unlucky. I do think in some ways he got a bit of a raw deal with this club after having success as an academy coach for so many years. Instead of getting that NTSC job first, he got thrown into the mix as a professional coach may be a bit too early in his career. Maybe.

If you look at the less than three years he was in charge, luck had something to say about it several times. I think the fact that he spent half of his professional gig with the team during a global pandemic was unlucky. Due to that pandemic, we saw the team not get to play for four solid months in 2020 and miss out on the MLS is Back tournament when things got rebooted last summer. Due to that pandemic, we also saw a large shift in the MLS schedule for this season that put the team on the road for large chunks of the season (right now the team is about to wrap up a set of seven games where they were only at home once). I know that isn’t the best excuse but I knew when the schedule hit earlier this year that there were some trouble spots in that schedule that could cause some serious issues.

Again, the list could probably go on and on. I’ve already put up 1500 words here and I think that is enough from me. What were some of the things that went wrong in your mind for Luchi that led to this firing? Let us know below.