FRISCO, Texas — Quiet yet exciting on the field, FC Dallas defender Jackson Gonçalves is coming into his own as a person and player in the United States, much to the benefit of the team and the fans.
The enigmatic 22-year-old Brazilian moved to the United States last August on loan from São Paulo FC, and has settled into a Dallas back line that hasn’t surrendered a goal in their last 309 minutes of league play.
“I think what you’re starting to see from him these last couple of games is he is starting to really feel comfortable,” FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman told reporters after Thursday's training session.
Comfort has come slowly but surely for Jackson with FC Dallas. Two yellow cards within a minute of each other against the Columbus Crew in the third game of the season brought Hyndman to use the phrase “emotional intelligence” when making in-game decisions.
“After the red card, I had a couple of issues, but I had a talk with Schellas and everything worked out,” Jackson said through FCD midfielder Bruno Guarda, a Brazilian native.
Hyndman and Jackson have a close relationship that other players may not share with coaches. Hyndman lived in São Paulo after a year in the American Soccer League, training with São Paulo FC regularly. He is also fluent in Portuguese.
“It’s a lot easier to have a coach that speaks your language,” admitted Jackson.
Said Hyndman, “I think it’s important that whoever the coach is, whatever the language is, that somebody does connect with any player about how they are doing, areas of concern and areas of improvement."
Frequently during breaks in training, Hyndman will approach Jackson and make small talk. The two often also sit down alongside the training pitch and converse before practice. Jackson — who gives himself a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10 for his English aptitude — appreciates the head coach’s efforts.
“I like having Schellas as a coach because he cares a lot about character,” Jackson said.
And while his development on the field is improving, his off-field life is about to change in a big way.
On June 4 — the day after his 23rd birthday — Jackson will marry his longtime girlfriend Mayara in Brazil. She has organized the entire wedding while Jackson trains in Frisco, and although the weddings date conflicts with FCD’s home game against the New England Revolution, Jackson isn’t bothered by it.
“I am going to miss a couple of trainings,” he said calmly.
After the wedding, Jackson and Mayara will return to the United States together for the first time and do away with the usual Skype sessions they have used while apart. But even though Jackson has been away from his girlfriend, his life in north Texas is quite comfortable, according to close friend Guarda.
“A couple of the Latino guys always try to make sure he is going to be a part of the team,” said Guarda. “I made sure that he came in and felt as comfortable as he could and he always knows that if he needs something, I am there for him. We hang out a lot. He’s a quiet guy, just like he is on the field.
“He has been here almost a year now,” Guarda added, “so he can go to McDonald's and order a No. 1.”