A mile in Luchi’s shoes: Football Manager part one

Football Manager has been one of my favorite games to play for the best part of thirty years way back before a nasty divorce with Eidos forced the game to lose its Championship Manager moniker. It’s long been a favorite of fans and footballers alike as it was at one time the largest scouting network in the sport. Football Manager provides unrivaled realism that predicted the rise of Leo Messi, Kylian Mbappe, and Wayne Rooney long before they became household names.

Sports Interactive recently made the full game available for free for a week on Steam. In these times of social distancing, what better way to spend many many hours than on a game that used to have an ‘addictiveness rating.’ A rating that was a point of pride for many players.

Originally I figured I’d play a game and keep an eye on FC Dallas’ progress. The problem was, Luchi Gonzalez in the game doesn’t play Luchi-ball!

Time to take matters into my his own hands and walk a mile in Luchi’s shoes.

Can I find a hidden (cheap) gem? Could I achieve the lofty ambition of earning a home playoff game? Will the digital Homegrowns stand up in the way they had in the real world? There’s only one way to find out.

The Background

You know FC Dallas, so we won’t waste too much time going over old ground.

The Hunts provided enough in the budget to buy down salaries to get under the salary cap, but only around $500,000 more to potentially spend on a player. I do have the luxury of Thiago Santos and Franco Jara in Frisco, as well as the 2020 MLS SuperDraft picks. The date is starting the 2019 season since the game defaults around the 19/20 European season.

Screenshots are big, so click on them for the full-size image.

Transfers

There’s some work to do and not a lot to do it with.

In my first meeting with Marco Ferruzzi, it was recommended that we look at Jonathan dos Santos who might consider a $12m move (lolz!). It was the other LA team who gave me my first decision, as LAFC – and later Orlando – proposed sending their natural first-round picks in the next two MLS SuperDrafts in exchange for Ryan Hollingshead.

Err…No!

Throughout preseason there are rumors that Borussia Dortmund is looking at sending $8.5m my way for Tanner Tessmann. I haven’t heard from them, but it’s always good to see FC Dallas in the news I guess.

FCD doesn’t have a lot to trade for within MLS. I don’t have much in the way of allocation money, and I need all of my international roster spots. I handed out trials left, right, and center in an attempt to find someone on the cheap who can help add depth to a thin roster.

In my first performance review with Dan Hunt, I got an A- in my transfer dealings. In fact, every ‘notable highlight’ included the phase financial aspect. It’s so true to life!

I signed five players and stashed a few of the younger guys with NTX to make space, even living the risky life of only having two keepers on the MLS roster. Here are my signings.

Nelson Barahona

A 31-year-old Panamanian attacking midfielder, Barahona is very much a journeyman in the twilight of his career who became available after his contract expired with Cartagines. Barahona came in on trial and impressed in preseason with two goals and an assist in his first three games. He also comes with a manageable $111,000 salary.

You’ll see a little further down why that position was a struggle. Poor sweet Paxton…

Franck Tabanou

Ryan Hollingshead in the game hasn’t yet translated to left-back of the ages, with Reto Ziegler really my best option. He’s not as fast as he used to be, and that really leaves me in a bind in the center of the defense if Hedges or Bressan get hurt.

Fortunately, the 30-year-old Frenchman lands in my inbox seeking a new club. I’m taking all comers at Toyota Soccer Center, we’re using all 18 pitches to fit everyone into training with appropriate distance!

Tabanou has played in France, England, and Spain. He’s comfortable up and down the left wing, which we really need for Luchi-ball. His nearly $400,000 salary is a little tough to swallow but it’s a problem position and a guy who has been incredible in the preseason.

Juninho

That happy return to the LA Galaxy from Xolos didn’t really pan out for Juninho, and he fell right into Tex Hooper’s lap. Originally I brought the 30-year-old in as cover in preseason after a few injuries. He didn’t really set the world alight with Chicago, and surely he’s on the downturn now.

Well, the injured players came back and they couldn’t beat out the Brazilian. I had to send a 4th round draft pick to LA for his rights, but I’ve got Thiago Santos on the shelf and a lack of depth wither Edwin Cerrillo and Brandon Servania not up to speed (in the game).

Claudio Bieler

Best known on these shores for scoring the first penalty of the shootout that would decide the 2013 MLS Cup, Bieler was another trialist that hit.

Zdenek Ondrasek was hit and miss, Franco Jara seemed a better left-winger than striker and Ricardo Pepi/Jesus Ferreira just weren’t ready yet. Bieler scored in his first game and brought some chance creation that had been missing.

Plus a veteran minimum $70k is worth a gamble while I can let Pepi develop with North Texas SC.

Sergiño Dest

I still don’t really know how I landed this one. A few MLS teams were inquiring about loans for the Ajax right back. I’ve got Reggie Cannon but I’ve also got a seemingly brittle team, so I thought I’d also see if I could get both young USMNT right backs in Frisco.

Real recognized real, as the Dutch FCD said: “Sure, you’ll probably develop Dest better than us anyway.”

Dest had just sustained a core muscle injury a few days before we landed the 18-year-old on a season loan, so he won’t play in the first couple of games of the new MLS season.

Either way, the fans seem happy except Christian Parker. He probably takes a measuring cup to games to complain about the amount of nacho cheese.

While his salary is only $148,000, I did have to pay a few bucks for his loan that worked out to a $500,000 cap hit. It’s a good thing I had that allocation money stored away for roster compliance day.

Preseason

Wow, there was a lower body count in all of the Rambo movies than in my team. FC Dallas players dropped like flies with 17 injuries.

I started out with a 3-2 win over America de Cali. The game was overshadowed by Paxton Pomykal (ACL) and Michael Barrios (Calf) each suffering a partial tear that would keep them out for around a month. Santiago Mosquera sprained his MCL in the next game, a dull 0-0 against Colombian side Junior. He then twisted his ankle in his first game back, so FM definitely has realism going for it as far as Santi needing a suit made from bubble wrap.

As the games started to come thick and fast, we put together a strong run highlighted by wins over Chicago (3-1) and Vancouver (3-0), but I was brought back to earth by the Galaxy. Not so much the awful performance in a 1-0 loss, but the torn groin that would sideline Ryan Hollingshead for two months. I took the opportunity to place him on injured reserve to free up another roster spot for the next six weeks.

The team picked up from before LA and were scoring for fun, but it’s preseason against lower teams who make masses of changes. I needed to get a feel for something closer resembling an MLS match day, and a final preseason date with Houston was the perfect test.

Houston Dynamo v FC Dallas

At a typically empty BBVA Stadium, Luchi set out a double pivot 4-3-3 in what is almost a starting XI for opening day.

Side note about that 3D model. I actually used a photo of Luchi, although the model looks closer to Jim Carrey. It’s almost as bad as using Pablo Maurer’s cat.

Kobra starts up top after a couple of rough performances by Franco Jara. Claudio Bieler wasn’t fit to start. Michael Barrios returned last week from a partially torn calf, and the Colombian gets the start again opposite Fafa Picault, with Nelson Barahona at the free 8.

Tanner Tessmann continues a strong preseason earning the start alongside Bryan Acosta in the double pivot, while the defense writes itself as Franck Tabanou cements his place as the starting left back and Bressan forcing Reto Ziegler to the bench.

The opening moments were all FC Dallas as the hosts couldn’t settle into the game. Ondrasek peppered Marko Maric’s goal, but Kobra turned provider on 15 minutes as he whipped a high ball out to Barrios on the right wing. Mikey advanced into the box, with a stepover sending former Huntsman Maynor Figueroa the wrong way. With no further pressure, Barrios slammed the ball high into the far corner.

Somehow Maric kept the score close even if the game was completely one-sided. Bryan Acosta had a chance to make it 2-0 from the spot after Fafa Picault was hauled down at a corner. Acosta went low to the keeper’s left, but his shot went just around the post. Dallas finished 21-2 in shots, and 10-0 in shots on target as they walked a preseason Texas Derby win.

This win leaves us a week out from the start of the new MLS season and an opening day trip to Red Bull Arena. What could possibly go wrong?

2 Comments

  1. That upload of the cat had me literally LOLing. WOW, was that scary.

    When’s part 2 coming out?!? I’m dying to know what’s next!

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