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New FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez: ‘If you’re stagnant, you die’

Watching Atlanta United lift the MLS Cup earlier this month was painful for Luchi Gonzalez. He watched with his family, his son jumping around on his lap. 

He wished it was FC Dallas hoisting the trophy under a shower of confetti.

“That hurt me,” Gonzalez said during a Monday news conference to formally introduce him as FC Dallas’ new head coach. “That game hurt. Because we have to fight to win that cup, always.”

Gonzalez said to evolve FC Dallas he will build on the legacy former coach Oscar Pareja left behind to take a coaching job in Mexico’s Liga MX. Gonzalez will first take an audit of the club’s strengths and then determine the best way to move forward, he said.

“Maintain the strengths, but evolve things in terms of style of play, in terms of player personnel,” Gonzalez said. “But do it in a subtle way. There’s no drastic change needed, but there has to be change. If you’re stagnant, you die. So we have to keep living.

“Over time we’ve earned stability, both in the way we compete on the field and … in our philosophy in terms of development. We’re going to maintain that, preserve and maintain that, because that’s in our foundation. The academy will continue to be the heartbeat of this club.

“I didn’t know a lot of these people seven years ago, and I’ll go to war with these people now.”

Gonzalez spoke a lot about family and creating an atmosphere within the club that fosters growth and unconditional commitment. Those are things he helped establish in his previous position as FC Dallas’ Academy director.

“We are a club that is not going to prioritize buying stars or bringing stars,” Gonzalez said. “We are a club committed to developing stars. Star people, star players, star staffs.”

To demonstrate his philosophy, he told a story about the numerous text messages he received after accepting the head coaching position, saying his “thumbs are really sore” because he took the time to respond to every, single one — even from people he hadn’t seen or heard from in years.

“Get back to everybody. Make sure you stay connected. Build relationships. Collaborate. Believe in others,” Gonzalez said.

FCD president Dan Hunt took a moment at the beginning of the news conference to explain why the club decided to promote its academy director instead of hire an outsider with more experience. He said three things about Gonzalez stood out: his energy and passion for the game, his communication and his attention to detail.

“That’s what really sets him apart,” Hunt said of the last trait, adding that he and his brother, Clark Hunt, have gone through the interview process for MLS coaches many times. “It seems like the coaches with the highest attention to detail have the most success.”

Gonzalez will focus that attention on a style of play that involves more players around the ball, what Gonzalez called “number superiority,” which he believes will lead to more possession during matches and more success advancing the ball.

“The base is there of players and fundamentals and tactical things,” he said. “It’s always trying to gain an advantage with time and space with numbers. With the numbers up, we can destabilize and play through lines and around, but we can go forward, so we can create and attack. With numbers up, we can take advantage of situations to have high-percentage finishing so we can score. With numbers up, we can transition quickly and get the ball back. With numbers up, we can score in two passes or 20 passes, depending on the game and the opponent.

“It’s time to work. We can talk theory all we want. It’s about practice now. It’s about doing things.”

When asked if it is at all daunting as a rookie coach to take over a club with a rich history and try to lead it forward, Gonzalez said the challenge excites him.

“I don’t have time to overthink the past or my past experience or my inexperience or my unproveness. I don’t have time. I just know what I know, which is this club really well and this group of players. And I’m going to give everything of myself to that. … We were all new at something. We were all new to an environment, a club, a team, a position, a city. I didn’t know a lot of these people seven years ago, and I’ll go to war with these people now. So, I embrace it. This is exciting. I love it.

“No time to celebrate. Nothing to celebrate. It’s just a step, and I’m ready to take it.”

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