FC Dallas 25th season top 5 all-time rankings – coaches

As we continue to celebrate the 25th season of FC Dallas, we’re on to Part XII of our top 5 rankings.  You might have thought these rankings were done as we’ve gone through all the positions on the field.

But no!  We got more stuff to rank. On with the show!

To make these rankings, I approached several people I know and respect who have been working around, writing about, or following the team for 25 years to give input.  They may come and go over the course of the season as schedules allow.  I will be giving them credit on each story to which they contribute. 

For Part XII we move to the bench and the men in charge.  The head coach, the gaffer, the manager… whatever your preferred term.

Special thanks for participating in this coach ranking: 
Carlos Alvarado – FC Dallas Spanish Play by Play
Dustin “El Jefe” Christmann – FCD’s 1st Fan, founder of the Inferno, former 3rd Degree writer
Steve Davis – The Dean of Dallas soccer writers and current FCD color commentator
Chamo Jones – former 3rd Degree writer
Kevin Lindstrom – 3rd Degree writer since 2000
Damian Wright – former 3rd Degree writer

Once again we had a clear top choice with 6 of 7 first place votes and I doubt it will come as a surprise to anyone who he is. Choices 2 through 4 were also quite clear and obvious in order. 

The 5th place choice was close and in the end a slight surprise gets the nod.

Top 5 FC Dallas Coaches of All-Time

5. Luchi Gonzalez – 2019 to Current

DALLAS, TX – APRIL 14: FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez during the MLS game between FC Dallas and LAFC on May 19, 2019 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky)

In perhaps a somewhat surprising result, Luchi Gonzalez takes 5th Place despite only one season in charge. Clearly the panel is impressed with his tactics and personal choices so far.

Gonzalez, the former FC Dallas Academy Director who won multiple titles as a youth coach is a teacher at heart.  He’s cited two other FC Dallas head coaches as his biggest coaching influences: Oscar Pareja and Schellas Hyndman.   Gonzalez is a perfect fit for the Hunts’ “FCD-Family” style of choosing coaches from in-house, particularly with the current importance of the Academy.

Gonzalez prefers a high press with a high-possession build-out.  Tactically the preference is a 4-3-3 with a single pivot but 4-2-3-1 and a 3-5-2 have also been used by the young gaffer.

FC Dallas Regular-Season Record: 14-12-10, 52 points
FC Dallas Playoff Record: 0-1-0

This panel as a collective obviously feels there’ a lot of potential here even though this is the first professional coaching job of Gonzalez’s career.

A small sample so far, but his first season in charge was quite promising. It wasn’t just the playoff qualification, but the eye-pleasing stylistic approach, plus the fact that he doubled down on the team’s signature youth movement.

Steve Davis

4. Schellas Hyndman – 2008 to 2013

11 May 2013 – FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman during the MLS game between FC Dallas and DC United at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas. FC Dallas won the game 2-1. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

With five and a half seasons in charge of FC Dallas, Hyndman is the longest tenured coach in club history despite only making the playoffs twice.

Hyndman’s teams were characterized by a very direct, athletic, physical, and classic style.  He used both a diamond 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3 system during his tenure and a self-described “3-level” defensive system.

Hyndman was often a polarizing coach with some players who loved playing for him and some who hated playing for him. He was very much an up-front, outspoken coach with little to no guile.  He was a big believer in everyone doing their job and being professional.  While he didn’t have a reputation for developing youth there were some notable young players who broke through during his time in Dallas.

FC Dallas Regular-Season Record: 62-59-58, 244 points
FC Dallas Playoff Record: 2-2-1

Hyndman’s 244 points earned are the 2nd most at the club.   He’s also the only coach to take an FC Dallas team to the MLS Cup, which he did in 2010 losing to the Colorado Rapids.

Hyndman was named MLS Coach of the Year in 2010 and in 2020 he was inducted into the United Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame.

Prior to taking the FC Dallas job – at the third time of asking – Hyndman coached college soccer at Murray State, Eastern Illinois, and SMU spending 24 seasons at the last of those stops.  Sometime after resigning from the FC Dallas coaching gig, Hyndman became head coach at Grand Canyon University.

Some of the highest moments in team history, including the club’s only MLS Cup appearance, but also some of the craziest. Hyndman suffered the fate of losing one of the best players in team history to a major injury in his third full season with the team, but he also missed the playoffs three times where he had a full season to work with.

Kevin Lindstrom

3. Colin Clarke – 2003 to 2006

Colin Clarke. (Fred Kfoury, YCJ)

Clarke is arguably the most accomplished player to ever become FC Dallas Head Coach with 398 professional games and 134 goals scored in the English professional ranks for clubs such as Bournemouth, Southampton, QPR, and Portsmouth.  He was also capped 38 times by Northern Ireland.

Clarke took over for Mike Jeffries late in the 2003 Southlake debacle and began a massive rebuild.  After missing the playoffs by 2 points in 2004, Clarke’s 2005 team finished 2nd in the West before going (all but) wire-to-wire in 1st in 2006. 

Clarke was dismissed after the 2006 season for failing to advance in the playoffs two years in a row; which, in the opinion of this writer anyway, is still one of the dumber decisions in club history.

Most often in Dallas Clarke’s teams employed a classic flat 4-4-2 system with heavy use of wide mids that were above average crossers.

FC Dallas Regular-Season Record: 41-39-20, 143 points
FC Dallas Playoff Record: 1-1-2

Clarke managed the Richmond Kickers and San Diego Flash before joining FCD as an assistant. 

After Dallas, Clarke managed the Virginia Beach Mariners, Puerto Rico Islanders, the Puerto Rican National Team, and North Carolina FC. Notably leading the Islanders to 2008-09 Concacf Champions League Semifinals before losing to Cruz Azul.

Clarke is currently the GM of Wake FC’s men’s (USL-2) and women’s (WPSL) teams.

Clarke took over the team during the end of the worst season in club history and started rebuilding. His teams in 2005 and 2006 posted two of the better regular seasons in club history. Unfortunately, both seasons ended at the hands of Colorado Rapids in the playoffs. Much like when Dir was let go, Clarke’s firing had the opposite effect of what had been intended. Instead of reaching new heights, the decline started, leading to two consecutive years without playoff appearances.

Chamo Jones

2. Dave Dir – 1996 to 2000

Dave Dir at the Cotton Bowl. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

The club’s first-ever coach, Dir led the Dallas Burn to the playoffs in every year of his tenure despite being handicapped as a league-owned team.

While Dir usually preferred a 3-5-2, he would also deploy his team in a 4-4-2.  His teams more often than not used a zonal marking system and he gave a lot of freedom to his defenders to get forward as an extra attacker, something far more common in today’s game.

FC Dallas Regular-Season Record: 81-75-4, 217 points
(0-0-4 in 5-minute overtimes, 15-13 in shootouts)
FC Dallas Playoff Record: 6-11

At .518, Dir has the 2nd highest winning percentage in club history. His 81 wins are still the most at the club, although the shootout era pads his stats a bit in this regard. That also makes his 75 losses the most in club history. Dir was the longest-tenured of the original 10 MLS coaches and won the 1997 US Open Cup with the Burn.

Prior to coaching FC Dallas, Dir was the chief scout for MLS, arguably giving him a leg up on the competition in the Inaugural 1996 MLS Draft. Dir also coached at Regis University and with the Colorado Foxes with whom he won 2 APSL Championships.

After departing the Burn, Dir was an assistant coach with the US U20s, Vancouver Whitecaps, and Colorado Rapids (under Head Coach Oscar Pareja).  Dir is also a former soccer broadcaster.  He’s also coached for and run several youth clubs and currently runs Dir Consulting.

A good coach who knew how to face the challenge of the franchise launch.  He also knew how to manage and work with stars like Hugo Sánchez and Leonel Álvarez.  He gave the club its first Open Cup in 1997 and that year the Burn could have reached the final if his star player, Alain Sutter, hadn’t gotten sick in Denver.  Both the league and the Burn were fortunate to have Dir in the beginning.

Carlos Alvarado

1. Oscar Pareja – 2014 to 2018

22 March 2014 – FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja during the MLS game between FC Dallas and Chivas USA at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. FC Dallas won the game 3-1. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree

The clear #1 choice of our panel. The best winning percentage of any FC Dallas coach (.585), the only coach with two trophies (2016 US Open Cup and 2016 Supporters Shield), 2016 MLS Coach of the Year, the most points in club history (277), the 2nd most points in MLS during his time as head coach (behind NYRB), and the first coach in MLS with back to back 60 point seasons.

Pareja made the playoffs in every year of his tenure with Dallas but one, the 2017 collapse after the team signed a bunch of vets to chase the Concacaf Champions League.

Pareja’s teams mostly used a 4-2-3-1 with a counter attacking style usually in a mid to low block. Pareja wasn’t much concerned about his teams not having the ball but when they did get it they attacked hard and fast. You never felt like his teams were out of games, even with time running out there was always a chance to score.

FC Dallas Regular-Season Record: 78-49-43, 277 points.
FC Dallas Playoff Record: 3-4-3

Pareja started his coaching career in Dallas as an assistant coach under Colin Clarke.  From there he joined the US U17 team as an assistant before returning to Dallas in 2008 to be the club’s first Academy Director.   In 2011 he was named an FCD senior team assistant coach again as well as Reserve Team Head Coach before taking the Colorado Rapids head job in 2012. 

After stepping down as Rapids Coach in January of 2014 he was named the main man in Dallas in a move that cost the Hunts a 1st Round SuperDraft pick and some allocation money.

Since leaving Dallas after the 2018 season, Pareja spent one season as the coach of Club Tijuana (a.k.a. Xolos) and is now the gaffer at Orlando City SC.

It is truly a rare occasion in this game when a beloved player for a club goes on to become a beloved coach for the same club. But two straight 60-point seasons, a feat that had previously never been accomplished in league history, a Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, a Supporters Shield (and only missing out on a second through a tiebreaker), and a semifinal appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League, all while developing some legendary players, make him the clear leader for me. 

Dustin Christmann

Shout Out – Interim Managers

Marco Ferruzzi and Ed Puskarich

Let’s give some love to the unsung, short-term coaching heroes of FC Dallas, the interim coaches.  

Most fans know Marco Ferruzzi led FC Dallas in 2008 with a 2-2-1 record between the dismissal of Steve Morrow and the hiring of Schellas Hyndman.  That’s a solid record considering Hyndman won only 4 games of the remaining 17. Ferruzzi is currently FCD’s Director of Soccer Operations.

Marco Ferruzzi. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

But many fans may not recall that while he doesn’t appear in the teams’ media guide, Ed Puskarich was the interim coach of the Dallas Burn in late 2000 after Dave Dir was let go following the Burn’s playoff elimination.  Puskarich led the Burn though a series of post-season scrimmages and talent evaluation training sessions prior to the hiring of Mike Jeffries in January of 2001. Puskarich is currently the Director of Texas Spurs.

Ed Puskarich, Director, Texas Spurs. (Courtesy Texas Spurs)

What’s Next?

Impact subs.  Players who made a difference off the bench.

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