FRISCO, Tex. — Year One of the Luchi Gonzalez era with FC Dallas is in the books, a season that ended with a stunning 4-3 extratime road loss to Seattle Sounders FC in Round One of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.
And for Gonzalez, hired in December, making the postseason is one positive to build on for 2020.
“We feel really positive with the steps we’ve taken,” Gonzalez told MLSsoccer.com after training Wednesday morning. “I think we’re farther ahead in terms of our culture, our foundation in the locker room, training environment, concepts.”
Gonzalez cited the 11-v-11 mixed scrimmage he’d just watched in training, one where he just let the players play, as a prime example of how much his culture has already taken hold as he saw the concepts he stresses on full display.
On Tuesday, FCD announced roster options for 2020. That opens the door for new players and, according to Gonzalez, fans can expect greater competition at one key spot come preseason.
“We’ll add some competition I think on the front line, just get some more competition to make us better internally and bringing the best out of our guys,” he said.
The club also has plenty of academy players waiting in the wings for their own first-team opportunities in 2020.
“You have young guys coming through like Jonathan Gomez, Justin Che, Nico Carrera,” Gonzalez said. “They’re young and you never know and never say never. But also, don’t always assume a kid has a long-term career. You have to keep trying to add ingredients and polish them each day and see where it goes. Certainly, there’s a lot of good talent and mentalities, and kids that we think have the potential to do it.”
Another huge positive was FCD’s second-team affiliate, North Texas SC, who dominated the USL League One regular season and capturing the championship in its first season.
So, it makes sense for Gonzalez to name several NTXSC players poised to get a preseason look with the first team.
“Obviously, we have David [Rodriguez], who’s worked hard,” Gonzalez said. “He’s got a high ceiling. I think he’s going to look to earn more opportunities. Same as Dante [Sealy]. Dante, I think can get more opportunities in a first-team environment. We’re looking forward to seeing their growth.”
Gonzalez also named 20-year-old's Ronald Damus and Arturo Rodriguez as other NTXSC players to watch for in preseason. Damus won the league's Golden Boot with 16 goals while Rodriguez led the league with 10 assists.
Despite NTXSC’s outstanding inaugural season, Gonzalez wants to see the second team also take that success to the next level in 2020.
“That to me shows our culture is strong, that it can mold you and form you,” Gonzalez said. “At the end of the day, that second team is an extension of the academy. It’s a U-23 team, so giving opportunities to the 17, 18-year-olds, I think that’s our next idea or step to take this to the next level.
“We already showed young players can get on the field, but give even more young players opportunities whether they’re signed or not so we can optimize their potential or also see and forecast their potential for professionals. I have a lot of pride for the second team. Seeing those guys play and train, it helped the first team be better and it helped the future be better, so I think it’s been positive.”