After the dismissal of Luchi Gonzalez, FC Dallas saw a rare identity crisis at its core. Beyond the playing style, the club has long been focused on the development and deployment of young talent.
Team President, Dan Hunt, and Technical Director, Andre Zanotta, questioned whether Gonzalez was too young or inexperienced, and whether the team trended too young. As Marco Ferruzzi attempted to find a path through that internal debate, the long-time coach and more recently Director of Soccer Operations reverted from Luchi-ball to a more counter attacking style. He also looked to experience, with the likes of Nkosi Tafari and Szabolcs Schon finding minutes hard to come by.
Perhaps the epiphany came as Ferruzzi began to reintegrate the younger players. Edwin Cerrillo and Brandon Servania formed a strong midfield partnership, rendering designated player Bryan Acosta expendable enough to decline his option last week. Nkosi Tafari helped shore up the defense with his ability get under the ball and strong recovery pace. Ricardo Pepi and Jesus Ferreira impressed enough to form Gregg Berhalter’s only options at the nine spot against Mexico in World Cup Qualifying. The story of Luchi Gonzalez’s reign wasn’t that the young players weren’t good enough, and the next person to lead the club would need to have an understanding of how to use those young players.
New FC Dallas Head Coach Nico Estevez was introduced to the public on Friday, and immediately spoke of developing young players and his existing relationships with FC Dallas players from working with then US Men’s National Team. Estevez has worked with five current FC Dallas players at the national team level. Add in the likes of Reggie Cannon, Bryan Reynolds, Tanner Tessmann, and the Spaniard’s exposure to FC Dallas’ methodology in the players it has produced is clear.
“For the culture, coming from Diamond from Spain and all my time with Gregg Berhalter on the national team, we have same vision of this proactive attacking style of play, where you use possession to create goals or scoring opportunities, to disorganize the opponent and to create goals for the team. Also being aggressive defensively, when you win the ball createing quick attacks.”New FC Dallas Head Coach Nico Estevez on a potential style of play
Estevez was hesitant to talk style of play, understanding that it’s largely dictated by the suitability of the players at your disposal. Luchi Gonzalez talked of the desire to create a Pep Guardiola-esque possession side with Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing intensity off the ball, something the team often struggled with aspects of. Despite the reluctance to give too much detail, Estevez is a product of systems under Berhalter and a myriad of coaches in Valencia that have used variations of the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 similar to what we’ve seen in Frisco.
The onus is now on Andre Zanotta to both deliver and retain the caliber of players that can achieve the initial goal set out by Clark Hunt, a return to the playoffs. Estevez himself is proof of Zanotta’s massive influence at Toyota Stadium. A departure from the typical hiring practice of a coach already with FC Dallas, or familiar to the Hunt family, Estevez wasn’t one of the 200 applicants for the position. Zanotta personally identified the 41-year-old and made the first move by asking Berhalter’s permission to speak with his assistant.
“Gregg [Berhalter] and I we have a very good relationship since I was in Brazil working for Santos, and and I knew of Nico. I called Gregg and asked him if I could interview with Nico to get to know him better, to get to know his ideas. Gregg authorized me to to speak to Nico, and I think this is a good moment for me to thank US Soccer, Earnie Stewart, Brian McBride, Gregg Berhalter. Those three guys were amazing throughout the whole process.”FC Dallas Technical Director Andre Zanotta
Zanotta revealed that Estevez had rebuffed several other MLS teams, with the new Dallas coach citing the seemingly rediscovered identity of FC Dallas as a great attraction for a coach that had made his name in development situations in Valencia and the increasingly young USMNT.
“We have a wonderful opportunity here at FC Dallas, and the was the type of opportunity that I was looking for. I know with the national team, we were in a [World Cup year], but FC Dallas has all the points, all the things that I was looking for as a coach. Especially working with homegrown players. I’ve already worked in the national team with them. The ambition of the owners to compete with the best teams in the league, and to grow as a club to become a reference in the league and all over the world.”New FC Dallas Head Coach Nico Estevez on the appeal of the FCD coaching job