It's been a long time since FC Dallas took the field for a competitive match. Five months this coming Friday, to be exact.
Dallas were forced to withdraw from the MLS is Back Tournament after arriving in Orlando last month as a number of positive COVID-19 tests left the club with no other choice. They were soon followed by Nashville SC, who also haven't played a competitive match in nearly five months.
“I’ve watched a lot of games in Orlando, they’re hard to watch," head coach Luchi Gonzalez admitted to media on a video conference call Wednesday.
Gonzalez misses being on the sideline and still rues that Dallas were unable to participate.
“I’ve never gone this long without coaching a game that mattered," Gonzalez said. "Whether it was U-10 girls, high school prep teams, the academy at FC Dallas or the first team. I’ve done a lot of training.”
Watching from home, Gonzalez has seen his former boss Oscar Pareja steal the show in Florida as his Orlando City SC have been the surprise of the tournament, advancing to the semifinal in style. Pareja, who was the FCD first team coach for years with Gonzalez as academy director, remains an inspiration.
“I’m proud of coach Oscar and I’m happy for him and his staff," Gonzalez said. "Seeing Orlando get to the semis, I wish them the best. Oscar and that staff are big influences on me, from the academy to now as head coach of the first team. But I also have that competitive side, I want to have the opportunity to play against these teams. I want to lead our team onto the field, but I have to be patient. This has been a big test of patience for me and the players.”
No plans have been formalized for the remainder of the 2020 season after Orlando, but the idea is this year's MLS campaign won't end with the tournament final on Tuesday. Gonzalez and his squad have continued training, trying to strike a balance between being match ready and not over-working the players.
The good news is that the squad is deep, with Gonzalez going as far to say they've got three options in most positions. The depth will help with fixture congestion as well as give them an edge considering the temporary five substitute rule. He's watched the tournament to learn from tendencies in how other coaches have managed their five subs, specifically, too.
Still, there's only so much Dallas can do with training and no games. They're confident the wait is nearly over.
“I feel really good about how we’ve been building this roster, for our identity and winning," Gonzalez said. "But we need games to test it, analyze it and make the next decisions. We’re almost there.”