Luchi Gonzalez – FC Dallas – sideline coach
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Luchi Gonzalez: Development Academy deserves credit, but laments "micromanaging"

When US Soccer made the decision to cease operations with the Development Academy, the news hit home for FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez. He had a lot of thoughts. 

Gonzalez originally joined FCD as their U-18 academy coach in 2012 and rose to academy director, guiding a youth development program recognized as one of the league's best. Their youth teams won four DA national titles under his watch. 

“I think US Soccer’s intentions and efforts have been amazing," Gonzalez told reporters on a video conference call Wednesday. "They helped everybody improve. If someone says otherwise, they’re a fool. They’re lying through their teeth or they’re blind.”

Gonzalez points to the structure, professionalism and clarity the federation put in place with the DA. They increased collaboration, as academies across the country become more closely intertwined.

Most importantly, Gonzalez added, they smoothened the pathway to professional soccer for kids in this country.

“We have more players playing internationally than ever before. That’s a fact," Gonzalez said. "There’s more players in MLS from youth clubs, pro or amateur. Things are growing, of course, it’s improved. Our football has improved, our national team’s football is better.”

It wasn't all perfect, of course. 

Gonzalez points to US Soccer "micromanaging" a bit too much with play styles, as he believes it's important to allow clubs the freedom to be diverse with style. The youth teams traveled too often, spurning local competition.

“I promise you that Real Madrid’s U-17 are paying the same as our clubs’ U-17s are on travel," he said. 

After the DA officially shut, MLS announced the formation of a new, elite competition for youth academies that were in the DA and beyond. 

“I think the USSDA was fantastic and it really did wonderful things for development in this country and it’s evolved," FC Cincinnati director of player development Larry Sunderland said. "And now, maybe this is a good time that presents a certain opportunity to move forward.”

MLS is working to take the progress made by the DA and go a step further.

“For FC Dallas, the development of players is part of our DNA," FCD technical director Andre Zanotta said. "We’re going to continue to work hard to develop the best players this country can have, it’s in our blood. We respect what US Soccer has done in the past. Where we were vs. where we are now in player development, US Soccer deserves a lot of respect. But it’s a great opportunity now for MLS.”

The league has a player development subcommittee, which Zanotta is on, that has daily calls to share ideas on how to optimize the development of youth across the country.

"The viability of the academy for FC Cincinnati has probably never been stronger because we’re going to have a lot more autonomy in how we actually develop the platform within MLS and for the MLS clubs," Sunderland said.

“There’s always an opportunity to make things better," Zanotta added. "If we can improve what was being done, it’s a great opportunity for MLS."

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