FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas rolled out a new coach, new system, and a new captain on Saturday, as Reto Ziegler led the team in their 1-1 tie with the New England Revolution to open the 2019 MLS campaign.
The Swiss defender has taken the armband through preseason alongside regular captain Matt Hedges, his center-back partner. For both the veteran of two World Cups, and the 2016 MLS Defender of the Year, it's just business as usual.
"I'm really proud of that," said Ziegler. "I was captain back home in my team in Switzerland and I'm able to be captain here so it's a big moment for me. It's only an armband, but it means being a leader on and off the pitch, and I try to be a leader and set the example every day."
First-year head coach Luchi Gonzalez focused on a wealth of experience in the league's youngest team rather than any notion of demoting Hedges.
"We have a leadership group," said Gonzalez. "[Carlos] Gruezo, Matt and Reto. It's like a triad, it represents everyone culturally and socially. Co-captains are Matt and Reto. If Matt's not on the field it's Reto, if Reto's not on the field it's Matt. If they're both on the field today, Reto's game captain – today. That doesn't mean he will be tomorrow "
Ziegler was shown the red card three times in his maiden MLS season, but Gonzalez laughed off the idea of the captaincy affording the former Juventus and Tottenham player any leniency from match officials.
"I like that point, I'll put it in my notes!" Gonzalez joked. "I didn't think about it that way but yeah. I don't want any our players thinking about leniency with the refs or that they can get away with this or that ... I challenge our boys to be the best in terms of character and integrity."
Hedges, club captain since 2014, has often seen the team led out of the locker room by others. Former teammates Mauro Diaz and Victor Ulloa rotated with the 28-year-old the past two seasons, and Hedges sees it as nothing out of the ordinary.
"It's normal for us," said Hedges. "Every year I've been here that have been multiple leaders within the team and in the locker room, which makes it tough for the coaches to pick the captain. It's normal to have a few leaders to spread around."
Hedges, who holds the record as youngest captain in FCD history at the age of 23, uses a plain armband with just the word captain. Ziegler prefers to pay tribute with his armbands – something he became known for at Swiss club Sion.
"It has the Texas flag, the Swiss flag and the FC Dallas logo," said Ziegler, describing the personalized yellow armband he wore against New England. "I have other colors, too. I was captain in Sion for two and a half years, and I have someone who makes the armbands, so I asked him to make something special for this team."