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New Coach, New Culture

Fans wanted change. Nico Estevez is bringing it.

Valencia CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

With Nico Estevez’s arrival as FC Dallas head coach, fans expected change after the last three years of up and down results under Luchi Gonzalez. While fans rarely get a peek behind the curtain of team conversations, for good reason, we imagine the locker room was pretty depleted after the struggle of 2021. Maybe Gonzalez had worn out his welcome and run out of ideas to get more out of the squad.

A fresh voice and direction was due for this team, and under Estevez, it has begun.

From media calls, player comments, and press releases, we are beginning to learn the changes that Nico has already implemented to shift the culture and break FC Dallas out of its recent doldrums.

Here are a few:

- Estevez implemented a new position in the front office structure, an employee whose job is to help players navigate life in the US and deal with all the various issues for them and their families as they adjust.

- Estevez has already introduced a new formation employing a false nine, ideal for the skills and talents of US international and Designated Player Jesus Ferreira. The formation also typically uses one 6 and two 8s, meaning we will likely see Homegrown players Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania, and Edwin Cerrillo lining up together in the midfield. This lineup creates lots of opportunities and fierce competition for Alan Velasco, Szabolsc Schon, Jader Obrian, Paul Arriola, and Kalil El Medkhar to lock down spots.

- In addition to retaining some seasoned coaches to insure some cultural continuity, coaches from Spain and Major League Soccer have been added to bring a different edge and outside voice to Frisco. In particular, Ben Cross, formerly with the Columbus Crew, gives the team a veteran MLS presence who has seen how to build a championship-caliber team under Caleb Porter.

- Cross also mentioned a floor plan change in coaching offices in a recent media call, removing or rearranging cubicles to create a more collaborative work environment.

- Players like Matt Hedges and Jesus Ferreira mentioned how their new head coach has a detailed plan of action for each practice, intended to get players fit, work on specific ideas, and prepare them for game action. There is a cycle to it - a build-up. This more directed approach is a change from the previous regime.

- Coaches have been assigned to each section of players. Attackers, midfielders, defenders, and goalkeepers have their own coach in charge of that group. This allows Estevez to delegate tasks to individual coaches but still step in with big-picture ideas or important feedback.

- Among other team building activities, Estevez has taken a lesson from USMNT training and set up assigned seating for team meals, forcing players to sit with different teammates and encouraging them to get to know one another.

- Estevez is passionate about building a roster with lots of competition, where spots are up for grabs on a week-to-week basis. With a talented, young roster, that’s exciting. Velasco is not showing up to Frisco to be handed a starting job. He will have to compete and grow.

I think these changes bode well for a refreshed, renewed FC Dallas squad in 2022. It truly is beginning to feel like a new era and a necessary culture change. Add in record spending for big-name talent, and even a cynical FC Dallas fan from years past may begin to feel some hope.

What are your thoughts on some of these changes? Which stand out to you as the most important?