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New FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez optimistic entering MLS draft

New FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez is a former MLS draft pick. He's pictured here playing for the Colorado Rapids. (Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY)

As a former first-round pick, FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez knows how important it is for players to be drafted and get a chance in the big leagues.

It is why Gonzalez is coming into the draft with a very optimistic viewpoint, amidst news that the draft combine could be scrapped in the coming years, and the values of draft picks are projected to fall in this year’s edition.

“I’m coming into this looking at the glass half full and not half empty,” Gonzalez said in a phone call with Pro Soccer USA. “I want to be very optimistic about the players here and their potential and what are their ceilings. With a great environment, in their next step, can they be optimized? I’m very positive in this experience about finding some exciting, young players that we can groom, we can polish.”

FC Dallas comes into the draft with the fourth (acquired from the Kellyn Acosta trade) and the 10th pick (acquired in the Maxi Urruti trade). It’s the second year in a row where Dallas has the number four pick. In 2018, the team selected winger Francis Atuahene from Michigan, who made eight appearances with the Oklahoma City Energy in the United Soccer League and two U.S. Open Cup appearances for FC Dallas. 

This year though, things are different. FC Dallas now has North Texas Soccer Club, a USL League One team that it can place players on to develop and get playing time. Gonzalez noted this when talking about strategies for the team going into Friday’s draft.

“We feel that we’ve got a good grasp on all the players on and off the field,” Gonzalez said. “Now, we’re forming our strategy as a club. One strategy can be to pick the top available talent. The other strategy is pick the player with the positional need that you have as a club and a roster. Another strategy puts the need on the second team and help the player become a first-team player and that’s something new to us.”

Gonzalez was the sixth overall pick in the 2002 SuperDraft, selected by the San Jose Earthquakes and Frank Yallop. After playing in eight matches for the team, he was let go and bounced around clubs before retiring in 2008. 

“I came out of college in a moment where of the 22 guys on the US U20 team coached by Sigi Schmid, 95 percent of us were college players,” Gonzalez said. “Today, the U20s, I believe, 95 percent were professional players.”

The 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship roster consisted of 13 college players. The 2018 U20 Concacaf Championship winning initial roster had four college players, two of whom are up for selection in the draft: Griffin Dorsey (Indiana) and Frankie Amaya (UCLA).

The draft had plenty of importance in 2002, with multiple players in the top ten picks able to make significant impacts in the league. Now, the draft has a different weight, with academies and younger South Americans being targeted by teams as MLS continues to grow.

Gonzalez believes has the draft still has a purpose but not with the same significance as before.

“Today, it’s a whole different world. A lot of the top young players have not come through college. They’re being signed young through the academies or some have gone overseas. College soccer will always be in my heart because I lived it and went through it when it had a value. It was one of the only ways to go pro. It’s not one of the only ways, it’s one way now. It’s one of several.”

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