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FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez reflects on first month in charge, new signings

Newly hired FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez makes a statement after being introduced during a news conference, Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

FRISCO, Texas — During the last month, Luchi Gonzalez has jumped right into the thick of things. The new FC Dallas head coach already has been involved with three key signings for the team and numerous other deals.

While trying to build a roster for the 2019 Major League Soccer season that is right around the corner, Gonzalez has had to learn about the many intricacies of  the league and its rules: allocation money, international spots, players being inactive and active during a season, how players can move between the first team and USL League One side North Texas SC and more. 

“I’m thankful I have some very intelligent and great human beings around me that work really hard that have that experience to guide me,” Gonzalez said during a phone call prior to last week’s MLS SuperDraft. He went on to identify club president Dan Hunt, director of soccer operations Marco Ferruzzi and goalkeeper coach Drew Keeshan as “guys who are helping us to be very intelligent about our decisions.”

The word “rebuild” was sometimes used to describe FC Dallas’ roster goals when the offseason began. However, FC Dallas’ offseason acquisitions don’t resemble a squad that is rebuilding. Bryan Acosta, a 25-year-old Honduran international, was brought in from Tenerife, a team in the Segunda Division in Spain. And Czech forward Zdenek Ondrasek is 30 years old.

Gonzalez described the additions to the roster as an evolution rather than a rebuild.

 “I think the base is very similar to what it has been, and yeah we’ve lost some pieces, but we’ve also gained some pieces. So, it’s a retool, an evolution, an exfoliation — because the core is there and these pieces are adding,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t think it’s in anyway restarting. They’re add-ons to help us take the next step.”

FC Dallas President Dan Hunt, left, and chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, right, present newly hired head coach Luchi Gonzalez, center, with his team jersey during a news conference, Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The biggest signing of winter for Dallas was Acosta, who is coming as a Designated Player. Even though Gonzalez said Acosta will primarily be used as a No. 8 on the pitch, there are many different ways the Honduran can be used. 

“He has the values off the field that match us, and on the field he’s very dynamic,” Gonzalez said. “He covers a lot of ground. He helps the team recover the ball, in positions higher up the field than most. He also will drop and recover and defend in our own box. He’s rangey in recoveries and distribution. He’s a technical player. He has ideas when he gets in that final third. He’s also understanding of build play and possession when we need to be in our own half, moving the ball forward.”

Ondrasek comes from Polish club Wisła Kraków, where he had 11 goals in 19 games in the Polish Ekstraklasa. After the departure of forward Maxi Urruti to Montreal and Cristian Colmán’s injury, which will have him out for an extended amount of time, Dallas was looking for a No. 9. 

“I’m really happy with the signing of Ondrasek as a nine-option,” Gonzalez said.  “Young man, who is proven to score goals in different leagues, and not just score goals but assist and support. He will work for the team in ball recovery and will fight for the jersey with a lot of personality and leadership. He’s a profile, in terms of movement and technique and combinations and a warrior spirit.”

The final of the major signings was Brazilian centerback Bressan from Grêmio in Brazil’s Série A. Bressan is known for his mishap against River Plate in the Copa Libertadores, when he was called for a handball, which allowed River Plate to score off a penalty kick to advance to the Copa Libertadores final. This drew criticism from many fans, but the 25-year-old brings experience at one of soccer’s highest levels.

Jul 20, 2017; Glendale, AZ; Mexico midfielder Edson Alvarez (left) against Honduras midfielder Bryan Acosta during the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

“Bressan is a big pickup in terms of personality and leadership,” Gonzalez said. “He’s very versatile, can play anywhere in the backline. Obviously, he comes in as a centerback, but he can play across the backline and he can step into the midfield if he has to in moments.”

Gonzalez is getting ready for his first preseason training sessions Monday. He’s been planning for the preseason with his assistants — Keeshan, Peter Luccin and Mikey Varas — for the last month, analyzing the fundamentals and building blocks needed before their first match. Gonzalez wants to build a culture around the club, not just on the field, but off the field as well.

“I get to do what I love with people I love being around, with a higher purpose than me making a salary or just winning a game,” Gonzalez said. “Yeah, that’s the ultimate objective on weekends: to build a roster to compete to win the game. But, there has to be a higher purpose than to just win the game. The higher purpose is doing what you love and being apart of a culture that’s excited and optimistic about the project and is willing to work and make sacrifices to earn the next steps.”

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