It was time for Oscar Pareja to move on.
After several years coaching FC Dallas, the former FCD midfielder and later academy director pushed for a bigger challenge. This offseason, he left for Club Tijuana in Liga MX.
For a club like FCD built around developing the next generation, the next move was somewhat obvious. After a quick coaching search, Luchi Gonzalez, the 38-year-old academy director, was announced as the next head coach of the club.
"We gave every other candidate an honest look because you want to hear what they have to say, hear their perspectives or their ideas. We came back and we both said, 'It's Luchi,'" FC Dallas President and owner Dan Hunt told Goal in December.
Gonzalez now will coach professionals for the first time, though his credentials at the youth level are enough to have plenty of fans believing there won't be too big of a drop off from Pareja.
He's hardly a carbon copy, though. There are similarities, but FC Dallas will have a new look this season. Gonzalez has shown in the preseason that he's ready to make a tactical shift, starting the year preferring a 4-3-3 formation to Pareja's 4-2-3-1. The team also should get even younger with three potential U.S. U-20s (Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania and Jesus Ferreira pending Ferreira's FIFA approval to join the Americans) pushing for starting minutes.
That doesn't mean, however, that FCD will look like a youth team in the upcoming season. Veterans like center-back duo Matt Hedges and Reto Ziegler should lend experience to the team and ground it, as will players who are young but experienced with 23-year-old midfielder Carlos Gruezo and 23-year-old Jesse Gonzalez both set for their 100th MLS appearance this season should they stay healthy and keep a hold on their starting jobs.
"Balance is the key. In life we have to look for balance. We can't eat a good steak every day. Some days you have to go buy a burger from McDonald's," Gonzalez said at his introductory news conference. "If you don't, the value of the steak isn't the same. The value of lobster isn't the same.
"We're going to be looking for a balance in this group. Young guys, guys in the middle, more veteran players and we're committed to this. The club has the philosophy of developing and playing young players."
How did FC Dallas perform in 2018?
2018 finish: Fourth in the Western Conference (16-9-9), eliminated from playoffs in Western Conference knockout round
Despite sitting in first place in the conference for most of the summer, FCD slipped to fourth place and couldn't avoid a knockout match against the red-hot Portland Timbers.
FC Dallas' key offseason losses
Winger Roland Lamah was selected by FC Cincinnati in the expansion draft, meaning the club's top two goalscorers are gone. He'll be reunited with Victor Ulloa. The Dallas homegrown midfielder was swapped to the Orange and Blue for general allocation money.
Two center backs in very different phases of their careers left FCD as well, with Maynor Figueroa and his 20 years of professional experience joining Houston in free agency and teenager Chris Richards being sold to Bayern Munich.
FC Dallas' key offseason additions
FC Dallas brought in Honduras international midfielder Bryan Acosta as a designated player (and is yet to announce its plans to deal with the four designated players it now has, one over the allotted three).
Bressen arrived from Gremio and is expected to be the team's third center back.
To compensate for its losses up top, FCD inked Czech forward Zdenek Ondrasek from Wisla Krakow.
Also, as is the club's custom, a new homegrown player was signed this offseason with midfielder Edwin Cerrillo joining the club's hoard of teenagers.
Full FC Dallas roster entering 2019 season
Goalkeepers: Jesse Gonzalez, Jimmy Maurer, Kyle Zobek
Defenders: Bressan, Reggie Cannon, Matt Hedges, Moises Hernandez, Ryan Hollingshead, Callum Montgomery, Marquinhos Pedroso, Reto Ziegler
Midfielders: Bryan Acosta, Pablo Aranguiz, Michael Barrios, Edwin Cerrillo, Carlos Gruezo, Jacori Hayes, Santiago Mosquera, Paxton Pomykal, Thomas Roberts, Brandon Servania
Forwards: Dominique Badji, Cristian Colman, Jesus Ferreira, Zdenek Ondrasek, Bryan Reynolds
FC Dallas projected starting lineup
It appears Gonzalez is planning to utilize a 4-3-3 with Carlos Gruezo sitting behind Paxton Pomykal and Bryan Acosta. Up top, Dom Badji and Ondrasek will fight to be the No. 9 between Colombian wingers Michael Barrios and Santiago Mosquera.
At left back, Marquinhos Pedroso is recovering from offseason core muscle surgery, and Ryan Hollingshead has played a significant number of preseason minutes at the left back position. The center back pairing of Matt Hedges and Reto Ziegler was one of the league's best last season, while Reggie Cannon has few challengers for the right-back role in which he excelled.
Jesse Gonzalez may not have the goalkeeper job sealed up but has fought off competition in each of the last two seasons. Expect Jimmy Maurer to see at least a few cameos for the second consecutive seasons.
While young players like midfielder Brandon Servania and forward Jesus Ferreira may be pushing for spots, Gonzalez noted he won't toss them in just to play his kids.
"The players have to earn their opportunities, just like a veteran player. They know that. Even though I’ve coached a lot of them in the past and I know their families and I know their backgrounds, I have to treat them just like the other players," he said this month. "They’re competing, but they’re doing it well. Whether it’s a young player or experienced player, they’re all showing they’re part of this family, part of this culture of development, a growth-minded mentality."
FC Dallas' national TV coverage
- FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy - Saturday, March 9, at 3:30 p.m. ET on Univision
- FC Dallas vs. Colorado Rapids - Saturday, March 23, at 3:30 p.m. ET on Unimas
- Atlanta United vs. FC Dallas - Saturday, April 20, at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
- FC Dallas vs. San Jose Earthquakes - April 27, at 3:30 p.m. ET on Univision
- Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas - Saturday, May 4, at 3 p.m. ET on Univision
- FC Dallas vs. New York Red Bulls - Saturday, May 11, at 2 p.m. ET on Univision
- LAFC vs. FC Dallas - Thursday, May 16, at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2
- San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas - Saturday, June 8, at 3:30 p.m. ET on Univision
- Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas - Sunday, June 30, at 11 p.m. ET on Unimas
- Chicago Fire vs. FC Dallas - Saturday, September 14, at 3:30 p.m. ET on Univision