As part of our wrap up of the 2019 season, we asked several members of the FC Dallas media to join us for a 6-part roundtable series.
Taking part in the roundtable will be Dan Crooke and Buzz Carrick from 3rd Degree, Peter Welpton from The Kickaround, Clay Massey formerly of FCD Radio, Dustin Nation from the Dallas Soccer Show, Tyler Kern from ESPN Soccer Today, and last, but certainly not least, FC Dallas Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez.
Our first topic for discussion is “grading Luchi Gonzalez and his coaching staff.”
Dan Crooke – Writer, 3rd Degree & MLSSoccer.com
It’s a B- for me. We all figured that Luchi’s intended high-press and possession style would need to evolve some with the heat and opposition. It did, and Luchi-Ball has been an effective style which finally encapsulates a plan B. We also debated where they’d end up, and 6th-8th was a reasonable middle ground for most. So two vague targets made, and Luchi has definitely improved with the timing and selection of his substitutions through the season. I think you’ve got to give the coaches credit when we’ve seen Homegrowns really hitting their stride this year (Cerrillo, Ferreira, Servania particularly), and Kobra go from a guy who didn’t look good enough for USL to getting a national team call-up scoring six in his last four home games. The manner of the US Open Cup exit and their awful away record are really the only negatives to what we all knew would be a rebuilding year.
Clay Massey – Former Writer & Producer, FCD Radio
I have to give Luchi Gang a solid B. I believe one of the most important things for a first-year head coach is that when it is all said and done, people around the team are able to see that his or her players bought into the philosophy said coach brings to the table. I do believe that was the case this season with FC Dallas. It’s an interesting situation, given Luchi’s ties to the club from the first team down through the academy system, but most importantly we saw that the team was committed to playing the style of soccer that they work on in training. Sometimes that lost them games, and that’s okay it is the nature of sports as a whole. When Luchi’s philosophy won games, or completed comebacks, it was spectacular. I look to 2-1 on the road against Atlanta, the 3-3 come-from-behind draw on the road to Montreal, dismantlings of Houston and SKC. The scrap we saw from this team on the road to Seattle in the playoffs is something we’ve been looking for since, what, 2014-ish? When this team was on, they were ruthless.
Personally, I am excited to see where this team goes with Luchi at the wheel. He has an attitude that can be hard to find. Luchi got what he could and then some from the tools at his disposal. Besides that, Luchi is committed to the culture of the club as a whole, and all aspects of it from supporters to the style of soccer his teams play on the field.
He loves this team, just like a lot of us fans do. I do think happy times are ahead for Luchi Gonzalez and those who choose to stand beside him.
Dustin Nation – Co-Host, Dallas Soccer Show
B. B is for Balance. It’s something Coach Gonzalez and his staff struggled to find all year. Between tactics and player selection, we perpetually felt like the team was just one puzzle piece away from being a very strong contender in the West. Many of the missteps can be forgiven, however, as this was his rookie season in MLS (a fact that became increasingly easy to forget as the season wore on). By the end of the season, he’d shown progress and learnings. With one of the youngest rosters in the league and a player pool that had some obvious deficiencies, Coach Gonzalez managed to sneak the team into the playoffs (and almost knocked off the team that ended up representing the West in MLS Cup Finals). I also gave him a few extra points for fashion and for the access he gave the FCD media team for their video series on his first year.
Peter Welpton – Co-Host, The Kickaround
C+ — Dan Hunt shoved Luchi Gonzalez into the water and expected him to swim. So much goes into modern-day coaching and Luchi was forced to skip a whole bunch of swim classes. It would be easy to give the staff a grade on a curve, but they wouldn’t want that. Luchi made all of the right and wrong steps as scripted back in February and it’s fair to assume he will stay on script for the foreseeable future.
Tyler Kern – Co-Host, ESPN Soccer Today
Luchi Gonzalez and his staff came into this season with a daunting task: take a step up to a new level of competition while replacing the most successful manager in FC Dallas history. There was the requisite learning curve to go along with some expected bumps in the road, but at the end of the season, it’s hard for me to look back say that 2019 was anything but a success for the rookie head coach. He was able to successfully integrate a slew of new homegrown players into the starting XI, including Paxton Pomykal, Jesus Ferreira and Brandon Servania. The challenge for Luchi throughout the season was balancing the emphasis placed on offense and defense. It seemed as though one consistently came at the expense of the other. If there’s one negative mark on his ledger, it’s the amount of time it took to integrate Zdenek Ondrasek into the side. Although, it’s worth pointing out that Cobra rarely showed he was deserving of more minutes in his appearances. The roster contained several players who clearly didn’t fit the desired style of play and weren’t productive. In total, Luchi took the youngest roster in the league to the playoffs in what was a competitive Western Conference. That deserves praise. – B+
Buzz Carrick – Founder and Editor, 3rd Degree
I’m going to stick with the grade I gave in the Regular Season Player Grades. B. Here’s what I wrote at the time.
It was always going to be a year of learning for a head coach with zero pro-level coaching experience. As expected he made some mistakes but showed great self-awareness and recognition of the learning opportunities. Brought a positive, exciting style of play his squad seems to like. He’s all in on the new Academy/Homegrown mantra at FC Dallas.Buzz in Season End FC Dallas Grades.
I will add that Coach Gonzalez’s positive attitude is quite infectious. It’s easy to see why players gravitate toward him. 2019 was a positive first step. I just hope the Hunts back him monetarily.
Ed note: Special thanks to Coach Luchi Gonzalez for being a good sport and answering this question. He could have begged off but he was willing to join in the process despite being a bit uncomfortable. It goes to show what kind of man he is that he would take part in our coaching staff grades roundtable.
Luchi Gonzalez – Head Coach, FC Dallas
I would certainly say, to me… To me, I have to be the most critical of myself. So if I say A, then I hope we would have a conference championship by now, you know, that’s just the competitor in me.
But I also have a teaching and a development side that’s really important in my foundation. So I would say – it’s weird, I’ll be really honest. I’m really uncomfortable kind of saying this – but if I had to, I wouldn’t say me, but our staff collectively, the group effort of the staff, and the mentality, I’ll give it a B+. Just because it’s good. It was very good. And in some ways excellent, but in the small little details as a group, as a staff, we know after this year of experience we have a lot more to give and support our players with. And we expect the same from our players. And I think we have more to earn. So let’s earn the A and but we’re not there yet.
Amazing working with Peter [Luccin], Mikey [Varas], Drew [Keeshan]. Drew, who really was a good rock for us to help us understand the league. With [Marco] Ferruzzi giving us support and leadership. Andre Zanotta, who is new, adapting right away and being a great support from a technical side. And then an ownership that is a part of our team because we’re all in this together.
So. You know, I’d give us a B+ right now so that we can earn the A. And hopefully have a Cup to make it even that much more sweeter.