FRISCO, Texas — As Luchi Gonzalez continues to make his mark as FC Dallas’ coach, players are acclimating to the different systems and ideologies presented.
One of those changes includes more touches on the ball for goalkeepers. Part of Gonzalez’s system involves goalkeepers being involved in the distribution from the back. Goalkeepers are put into passing drills to improve their on the ball skills. It’s a part of the game that Gonzalez finds very important, with more keepers worldwide almost acting as deep-lying playmakers and providing another outlet from the back.
“I think we said it in the press conference, they’re on the ball with their feet as much as maybe center backs in a game,” Gonzalez said. “If that’s the case, then it’s very important. It’s huge. Not just the side to sides- the side to sides is the typical distribution of the keeper- but they have to know to play between lines, they need to know how to bump the ball, third man bumps. They need to skip lines but not just to hit it. An intentional pass that skips a line, has a certain height, depth, speed, spin. Those are the variations that we’re trying to put them in.”
For keeper Jesse Gonzalez, the changes are coming along. According to American Soccer Analysis, Gonzalez attempted 584 passes in the defensive third, completing 64.2 percent of them in 2018. More warming up with his feet, Gonzalez believes he is improving with each practice.
“I’m pretty comfortable,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t really have a scale. I’m just really comfortable with the ball on my feet. What makes it easier is the options we have. Players open up and it’s way easier for us.”
Jesse says the switch in philosophy forces him to be more patient when he has the ball. Instead of lumping it down forward, Gonzalez must look for an outlet that’s available. He tried that in the 4-0 victory over Bayern Munich’s U23 squad.
Part of the adjustment is more training. Gonzalez says the more practice the keepers get, the more comfortable he believes they will be. The keepers have been working with the field players during drills, even being included in rondos and other technical drills.
“I think it’s gonna be a good thing that we’re going to have to adjust because that’s how we want to play this year,” Gonzalez said. “It’s gonna be a tough task but I think we are capable of doing it.”
Luchi Gonzalez credits goalkeeping coach Drew Keeshan with helping the keepers in their switch of mindset. Gonzalez encourages the keepers trying new things in training, in hopes of learning from a mistake and improving for matchdays.
“Drew has been great at supporting them and having the mentality to be open to the ideas,” Gonzalez said. “We may make mistakes but everyone is believing in them and showing that. When there’s a mistake, they’re supporting them to try again. I think that’s great. Over time, they’ll get it right. It’s just about putting them in those situations, pressing them, cutting their angles away and seeing how they can solve it with decisions with the ball.”