Reto Ziegler bringing key veteran leadership to FC Dallas' youth movement

FRISCO, Texas – First-year FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez calls veteran defender and co-captain Reto Ziegler a “student of the game.”

Before coming to FCD in January 2018 after making 145 appearances in Italy’s Serie A, 34 in the English Premier League and 122 in the Swiss Super League, Ziegler, 33, did his homework and knew exactly what to expect in MLS.

“It’s nothing complicated. Dallas offered me to come here,” Ziegler told after training Tuesday. “I followed MLS before I moved here and knew how they [FCD] wanted to play. It’s a technical team, fast in transition. They wanted me in the back to be a leader and to play the ball out, to help the young people because we have a young team. I’m here to win titles. That’s still my goal.”

When asked if anything about the league has surprised him thus far, Ziegler said it hadn’t, calling MLS a tough, physical league where nothing comes easy, a circuit “with a lot of international players with a lot of technique.”

Almost immediately after arriving, Ziegler made a positive impact with FCD. Last season, he had four goals in 29 starts and so far in 2019, he has three goals in 10 starts.

But for Gonzalez, who took over the first team in December after Oscar Pareja stepped down, Ziegler’s value can’t solely be quantified by his numbers.

“He’s a professional. Every training he is prepared,” Gonzalez said. “Even in the way he warms up, you know it’s important to him. That’s leadership by example that the other players follow. When he needs to be vocal, he is. When he needs to set the tone, command and direct, he does. He’s been really positive in whatever his role’s been.”

Before coming to MLS, Ziegler played high-level soccer in six different countries. And seeing how so many different clubs in different locales develop their own talent has afforded him a great perspective on what a great academy looks like, which is exactly what he sees with FCD.

Reto Ziegler bringing key veteran leadership to FC Dallas' youth movement -

Reto Ziegler celebrates with FCD teammates | USA Today Sports Images

“We have one of the best academies in the States,” Ziegler said. “I played for teams when I was younger who also believed in young people. That’s something good, but you need to have balance. You cannot play only with young guys. You need a balance and I think we have it here.”

The high caliber of young talent surrounding him also continues to impress the veteran center back. And as a veteran in a leadership role, he’s never hesitant to offer his young teammates sage advice gleaned from his long and successful tenure in Europe.

In fact, he shared one recent conversation with Reggie Cannon, a Homegrown defender who got his first US national team call-up last October.

“I don’t see him as a very young guy. I see him as an international player,” Ziegler said. “He represents his country right now and he deserves that. He should be a model for the other guys because when you reach the national team, it means you’re something special. I tell him every day, it’s something beautiful what you have achieved, but it’s not enough. He has to work every day.”

Ziegler doesn’t only serve as a great role model for his younger teammates. His professionalism and coachability also make him a shining example of how to handle challenges on and off the field for the entire roster.

For that, Gonzalez simply can’t heap enough praise on his experienced shoulders.

“He’s open. He’s been really good about video sessions, asking questions, being open to feedback,” Gonzalez said. “That’s a great example for our younger players, who need to know how to take critical feedback and not just take it but use it. Reto has shown that there’s no age limit on development, growth and learning. We’re happy to see him continue to contribute.”