FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez is gearing up for his rookie season on the touchline in Major League Soccer. But just how different will his team be from the one Oscar Pareja left?
A MAC Hermann Trophy winner under former FCD coach Schellas Hyndman at SMU at the turn of the century, and Pareja's successor as the head of Dallas’ academy, Gonzalez could be expected to continue the counterattack-minded 4-2-3-1 formation that both of his predecessors employed.
In some ways Gonzalez's teams are the antithesis of what FCD have been known for. They have been built on the principle of positive possession, keeping the ball high up the field and tracking back as a team rather than absorbing pressure and catching teams on the break. Gonzalez prefers to play a single pivot with a box-to-box midfielder sitting ahead, as opposed to the two-man defensive midfield that has been in place for the past decade in Frisco.
"That will be one of our styles," said the 38-year-old on Tuesday. "The use of a [No.] 8, 10, or double-8 with a single-pivot 6. There's moments in the games that we'll need a double-6. Maybe we have to start a double-6 depending on circumstances, player personnel for ourselves or the opponent, but it will be one of our styles, our base systems."
While it may not quite be the Pep Guardiola evolution of Johan Cruyff's Total Football, Gonzalez does employ some similar beliefs to the Manchester City manager. One is that goalkeepers must be as adept with the ball at their feet as in their hands. In FCD’s opening preseason practices, goalkeepers were not separated from outfield players, as the entire team took part in technical drills.
"It's just a good evolution for what we feel is important for that position, for our style, our concepts," explained Gonzalez. "We don't want to go into week two, where we're doing build play, week three doing build play with specific actions and movements without our ‘keeper having a thousand touches. A hundred, 200 – no, no, no, a thousand or 2,000, so he's conditioned and stimulated in a way where it's not just touches but he's making touches with decisions. There's references and opponents, and now he can make a pass between lines or he can take a dribble or play the ball over the top.
"The players who have the most contact on the ball are center backs and goalkeepers, so why wouldn't they be in a lot of our technical work, our rondos? That's important for us."
While possession is important to the South Florida native, it's not going to be a measuring stick of success, or a form of consolation in defeat.
"I'm not a big fan of saying ‘we didn't win but we had a lot of the ball and dominated possession,’" Gonzalez said. "That is an important stat, but it's an important stat in the opponent's half. That's an important stat if you have more shots, more crosses, so we're going to give objectives about habits to win the game."