The first media call of the 2023 season is in the books as FC Dallas had head coach Nico Estevez, technical director Andres Zanotta and club president Dan Hunt field a slew of questions from the local press on Friday.
The trio covered several topics, ranging from the team’s goals for the upcoming season, where they think the roster stands, to improvements in the facilities leading up to the World Cup in 2026. Here are a few highlights that stood out to me during Friday’s call.
On the club goals for 2023
The main thing Estevez kept saying to the press on Friday was how he wants the club to be hungrier in 2023 and not dwell on their success in 2022.
“If I know something about MLS, it’s that every single season is a new experience. It’s a new season,” Estévez said to open up the preseason press conference. “Nothing that you did in the past is going to help you to succeed. We start today as a brand new season, and we have to work as hard as we worked last season and improve the things we didn’t do well. It’s not like we’re throwing out what we did last season. But complacency is the first enemy for us this season because we can be happy about what we did. We’re not happy, we want more, and this is what we want to tell the players. This club wants more.”
Hunt also explained that the team is ahead of schedule from where they expected things to be after 2022.
“I would start with saying that 2022 was an amazing year,” said Hunt. “We came out of it ahead of schedule. When we were going through the process of hiring Nico and his staff, our goal was to make it to the playoffs. You can’t win it without being in the playoffs. We had the fortune of hosting a game, winning that game in the playoffs and then had a hard-fought match down in Austin. From that standpoint, we’re ahead of schedule.”
Why the team is heading to Spain
During the first year under Estevez, the club remained in the United States for preseason camp. This year will be different as they head to his home country of Spain to play in more competitive matches against non-MLS sides.
“First of all, Spain is cheap,” Estevez said jokingly when asked why the club was going to Spain. “Second, in 2017, I had the opportunity to go to Brazil with Columbus. I met Andrea there for the first time. It was a great experience for the team; we created a great brotherhood. We had really difficult games. Here, what I’ve learned is when you stay here, you play against MLS teams. You may get one game against a Mexican team. Sometimes players get tired of playing the same teams over and over. With that, we hope to create a great experience and have meaningful games.”
Estevez did comment on a few Swedish teams that could be potential opponents while they’re in Spain later this month.
For a bit of context on his Columbus team in 2017, that team finished 5th in the East and was eventually knocked out of the playoffs in the conference finals by Toronto.
On Toyota Stadium improvements
On the stadium front, with three and a half years away from the next World Cup, Hunt hopes for the facilities in Frisco to play a large part in hosting the tournament.
“We’re always thinking about it,” said Hunt when asked about possible stadium improvements. “One of my father’s life lessons was ‘take care of your stadium, and it will take care of you.’ We need to continue to improve Toyota Stadium. It's not just about the stadium but also the grounds surrounding it. We’re also thinking about it in the context of World Cup 2026. We hope to have at least one visiting national team; two would be great. ”
Hunt also said that the ticket sales for the season are really strong compared to 2022, which saw a record number of sellouts.
“We’ve already passed the number of season tickets sold for this season,” said Hunt.
In all, seeing the club exploring some options for stadium improvements will only continue to help them out at the gate. Right now, the East and North ends need the most work done on them to really bring the stadium into the modern MLS world of soccer-specific venues. With all the expansion and growth in Frisco, you have to wonder if it would be possible to take those two ends and renovate them into a Texas Live!-style area. Something like that could tie nicely into the South end’s Hall of Fame area.
On roster improvements going into 2023
Zanotta discussed how the roster build for this season is going. The club let several players go at the end of the 2022 season, but a recent move now offers them much flexibility in what they can do this season.
All three did comment on the recent departure of veteran defender Matt Hedges, who signed as a free agent with Toronto FC this offseason. Estevez explained how he still wants to find a big, physical center back as his replacement, but he and Zanotta both stated that it might not come until this summer.
Fans could be concerned that losing both Hedges and Jara will create a leadership void within the team. Still, Estevez explained that early last season, they established a leadership group within the team to help offset any departures during the offseason.
On the Franco Jara departure
Zanotta explained that he had a one-on-one meeting with Jara after the conclusion of the 2022 season to discuss what plans the two sides would have going into 2023.
“I sat down with Franco at the end of last season and explained how his contract ending in June would complicate things for us,” said Zanotta. “We kept the dialogue open, and when there was interest from teams in Argentina, things began to move faster. He got an offer and wanted to go so we found a way that worked for both sides.”
New Kit Sponsor
Lastly, we got our first look at the club’s new kit sponsor on last year’s primary kit.
I have to say, I already love the look of the Children’s Health logo on this kit. We’ll see the other logo, UT Southwestern Medical Center, on the new secondary kit next month.