When the 2020 Major League Soccer season does return, FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez feels a preseason of at least two weeks will be necessary.
The exact length will be out of his control, of course, as the coronavirus pandemic takes its course and league-wide decisions are made. But as clarity comes about, Gonzalez envisions that’ll be paramount.
“Any less than that would be, I think, risky,” Gonzalez said Wednesday in a conference-call with reporters. “But we have to adapt, and it's our job to make the players as optimally fit in these conditions as possible.
“They're not going to be ready for 90 minutes, for sure. No one in the world will be because there's no opponents and there's no references of teammates, opponents, time and space of a real game with a real goal under the pressure of competition. You can't simulate that working by yourself or in a gym. You have to actually get those reps.”
That abridged preseason will come after his group already had a four-month break from the end of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs to the start of the 2020 campaign. They then played eight preseason games and two regular-season ones, but Gonzalez feels more will be required to get back caught up to speed.
He's also mindful of balancing urgency and health concerns.
“There's the magnetic pull of urgency to get games in right away for our fans, for our league, for the table to salvage as many professional minutes as possible,” Gonzalez said. “That's also being pulled in the other direction with, hey, proper time and preparation to actually be fit enough to perform in a professional game, a meaningful professional game and not risk injury and have the level to sustain 90 minutes and do it for each other and for the fans.”
Before the MLS season was suspended, FC Dallas were 1-0-1 through two home matches. They were also trending towards peak fitness, Gonzalez said, as he highlighted Week 4 of a regular season as when most MLS teams are truly match fit.
Gonazlez knows they’ll have to hit restart some on that cycle, so they’re doing all they can with at-home training in the interim.
“This is all new territory for all of us, and that's the importance of us making sure we're creating the best habits possible right now,” Gonzalez said. “... Maybe it's not going to be two weeks, maybe it's going to be 10 days or it's three weeks. We don't know. We're going to be hopefully doing the best we can to be in the best optimal shape for the circumstances possible when we're together.”
Even if the on-field product will take some time, Gonzalez is remaining optimistic about the big-picture possibilities for 2020.
“I know maybe we haven't seen the worst of this so far, but we're going to be ready for that and that's going to make us stronger,” Gonzalez said. “I believe we'll be back together to salvage 2020. I'm very hopeful of that."