During the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez observed it as many others did: seeing the severe impact it was having in Europe and Asia, and hoping the United States would escape the worst of it.
It wasn't until a training session shortly before the 2020 MLS season suspended, Gonzalez recalls, that intensity truly settled in. In an unexpected move, technical director Andre Zanotta and director of soccer operations Marco Ferruzzi walked across the training field and delivered a message.
“We were able to finish the session, but they gave me the update and it was our last session up until this point,” Gonzalez said Wednesday during a media conference call. “That’s where I think it hit me that this is serious and we all have a role now to play that is more important than soccer and sport. There will always be a time for the privilege of soccer to come back to us, and right now we need to sacrifice and do other things.”
In the intervening weeks the MLS training moratorium has been extended and Gonzalez has adjusted to the new normal – both with FC Dallas and at home. For the latter, his kids make themselves breakfast, they’ll then exercise and complete schoolwork in the late morning and afternoon.
Fishing, pickleball and soccer have all helped keep social distancing boredom at bay.
“It gets repetitive, it gets a little mundane sometimes,” Gonzalez said. “But I’m not going to let it beat me. I’m not going to let that something is boring beat me. That’s going to make me think of a different way to do it or a more creative way.”
That creativity also shapes a video meeting Gonzalez holds with his players each Friday. It's devoted to an upbeat topic separate from soccer, and he revealed that this week involves baby pictures and a guessing game.
They’ve covered their tactical and technical bases earlier in the week, so Gonzalez tries to inject some levity during an otherwise grim time.
“We’re just trying to be a little silly, laugh,” Gonzalez said. “I think laughter is the one constant that gets people through the toughest times ever: war, tragedy, illness, sickness, death. At some point you got to laugh, at some point there’s got to be humor. So we try to find joy in our team reunions where it’s not just about soccer.”
In each anecdote and story, Gonzalez also recognizes the broader soccer world unfolding around him. It’s unclear when games and training sessions will return, plus what transfer windows will look like this summer.
But Gonzalez isn’t paying too much mind to the latter part, at least not with the roster FC Dallas has. They were 1-0-1 when MLS was suspended, and their blend of youth and veteran leadership inspired confidence. They’ll welcome forward Franco Jara from Liga MX side Pachuca this summer, and adjust if need be.
“I’m not too overly concerned with the transfer window because I feel we have a roster that was not going to have much movement in the summer,” Gonzalez said. “So, right now I’m calm, we’re calm. This is the roster today that we want to fight the entire season with as far as we know. Obviously it’s dynamic, things can change, so we have to be ready to adapt."