FRISCO, Texas — The new MLS season may begin at the end of February, but FC Dallas manager Luchi Gonzalez is admittedly eagerly anticipating July 10.
That's when the MLS Secondary Transfer Window opens. And it's when a deal announced Tuesday will become official, with CF Pachuca striker Franco Jara making the move north to Toyota Stadium.
“It’s an exciting signing,” Gonzalez told MLSsoccer.com after training Thursday morning. “The club has been tracking him for over two years. He gives us depth in a position that’s really important to get far in this league. He’s proven. He has a strong personality and bite around the box. He has that winning mentality based on his experience with Pachuca and that can help us do some special things. At the right moment, he’ll join us.”
Jara has 76 goals and 19 assists in 158 games since joining Los Tuzos in 2015. But until he arrives, Gonzalez feels FCD has ample cover up top in Jesus Ferreira and Zdenek Ondrasek, who combined for 15 goals and eight assists last season, and 17-year-old phenom Ricardo Pepi, who netted 11 goals in 2019 for USL League One champion North Texas SC.
In particular, Gonzalez is encouraged by how the 31-year-old veteran Ondrasek perservered after early struggles, delivering his seven goals and two assists over FCD’s final eight games to earn his first call-up from the Czech Republic national team.
“He’s such a great model and example,” Gonzalez said. “You don’t need to be 16 to develop. You can be a 29, 30-year-old man and develop and then debut with your senior national team. He had to make adjustments. He had to change some habits in training. It didn’t happen overnight. He was doing things better in training and they were transferring into the games. He’s going to be important to help us start strong.”
Ferreira, the 19-year-old son of 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira, had eight goals and six assists over 33 games in 2019. He spent the latter part of 2019 at attacking midfielder, but Gonzalez feels the talented 19-year-old can contribute in either role.
“He’s a nine, a false nine, but we like him in the 10, as we showed at the end of the season. We’ll see,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve got good depth there (at the 10) with him, with Paxton (Pomykal). We’ll see, but we think he’s valuable in both (roles).”
Pepi, 17, appeared in seven games for FCD in 2019 and has recovered from an injury suffered in the Under-17 World Cup last fall.
Now that the native Texan has ascended to the first team, Gonzalez expects him to further elevate his level of play, a challenge he’s more than capable of meeting.
“Right now, he’s relevant,” Gonzalez said of Pepi. “Even though he’s young, he got a few sniffs last year. His challenge is to not be considered the nine of the future, but the nine of today and making that happen sooner rather than later.”