Luchi Gonzalez on What Does it Take to Make it as a Young Pro And Enjoy an Extended Career?
Dallas is a big soccer city and FC Dallas is its beating heart for the city’s soccer culture. Interview with
FC Dallas is one of the top MLS clubs in America and with a worldwide reputation for developing youth soccer players in its academy system into professionals, this club is redefining what it means to be successful.
Few coaches have more impact on American soccer than Luchi Gonzalez. As the head coach for FC Dallas, Gonzalez has set apart his club with a clear and defining style — and his empowerment of young pros in the game.
And, this is only Luchi Gonzalez’s first year as a head coach in the MLS.
With a head coach/manager who rose through the coaching ranks of the FC Dallas Academy himself, former pro player Gonzalez has a deeper understanding than most on what it takes to improve American soccer.
Known for his commitment to developing the next generation of superstar players and giving homegrown and rookie pros valuable playing time and minutes in tough MLS games — Gonzalez is raising the bar of responsibility in American professional soccer.
What defines a club is more than its scoreboard is the organization’s philosophy — as FC Dallas has a development culture and believes more in the building than the buying of talent.
FC Dallas ended the 2019 MLS season ranked 7th in the Western Conference.
From The Top of the Western Conference: LAFC, Minnesota, Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Portland Timbers and then FC Dallas.
There have been many amazing games this season. For example, the match against NYC FC was a roller coaster of a game. FC Dallas rallied and came back from an early-goal deficit in the first half to split the all-important points in the final stretch to the MLS Playoffs.
While Gonzalez is the first to say that game did not work the way he would have liked, he is quick to point out that NYCFC were the protagonists and that his team changed the game in the second half. “I am proud of how my players responded in that game,” said Gonzalez.
While Gonzalez’ leadership has been tested last season, everyone appreciates his vision and wisdom — and this is a marathon and not a race.
Interview with FC Dallas Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez
Diane Scavuzzo: What are your thoughts on the season?
Luchi Gonzalez: Time goes quickly in a season — here we are with our last games left and our push to get into the playoffs. It has been an amazing ride. I have learned a lot.
Diane Scavuzzo: What have you learned?
Luchi Gonzalez: I am more wise and just as ambitious and focused on improving our player development model and supporting homegrown talent.
We want to achieve the ultimate goal of competing for the cup but nothing is ever defining — as life goes on.
Diane Scavuzzo: How have FC Dallas’ homegrown talent and rookie pros impacted the season?
We have worked to give consistent minutes to these players.
Diane Scavuzzo: How is Paxton Pomykal performing? He signed as a Homegrown player in 2016 …
Diane Scavuzzo: FC Dallas has collected impressive hardware, winning the MLS Supporters’ Shield and the U.S. Open Cup in 2016 while leading the MLS with providing young players with minutes in the game — what does it take to earn minutes on the field? What is your advice?
Luchi Gonzalez: Players struggle to get professional minutes.
My advice? Players have to stay hungry, love the club, and love the experience.
Making a career in soccer is a product of this — and, players being fit and confident.
Diane Scavuzzo: What have you learned?
Inheriting a structure poised for continued success, FC Dallas has led the MLS in minutes given to Homegrown players. The club has also collected impressive hardware, winning the MLS Supporters’ Shield and the U.S. Open Cup in 2016 are among the honors.
Luchi Gonzalez: For me personally, I have learned a lot and the club has supported me wonderfully.
This is a great league, it is a much better league than when I played in the MLS.
The talent is higher now — definitely higher and it has been an evolution.
When I played in the MLS, there were no reserve teams and there were not that many young players.
And today, you can’t really celebrate goals until you are sure they are awarded, you never know with VAR (Video Assistant Referees) — and this has changed the game too.
The MLS is not a retirement league anymore — the model has been changing ever since the academies started.
Diane Scavuzzo: What advice can you share for players trying to break through?
Luchi Gonzalez: I believe in the idea that if you are good enough to make a career in this game, you are going to get noticed.
Someone is going to invest in you.
It is not easy — as it happens at different times for different players.
You have to be motivated to take the next step as there are so many factors including injuries. As coaches, we all see players differently and manage rosters in our own way. A player who is not regarded highly at one club can be a key piece at another club — you see this all over the world. And that is life.
My advice is be the best who you are.
Don’t look so far ahead that it requires a 1000 steps before you get there. Be the best where you are today.
The next step is to work extremely hard and sacrifice to be the best right now.
If you have the characteristics to play at the highest level, not just the talent, someone is going to notice. Just not necessarily your own coach.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are the most important traits for success?
A young pros’ decision making and ability to evaluate time, space, and the opponent reflect his critical game IQ.
Of course, players must have the technical ability to apply soccer IQ and mentality and physical attributes are also important.
critical for an older player.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why is resilience so important?
Luchi Gonzalez: Players need resilience to deal with adversity, and the set backs they will experience with injuries, playing time — for a more senior player, most important trait to extend their career is their mentality.
For example, Messi is a World Cup player but, when he was 18-years-old, he was already brilliant in technique and decision making. Now, he can know how to manage his energy level and can be an even better player.
Check out FC Dallas’ Roster here
Note:Article Originally published on 9.25.19 but updated after the MLS regular season ended.