With the departure of Papi, FC Dallas has left a position of stability to enter a more unstable position, a situation the club has not been in since the beginning of Pareja’s tenure. Although they were forced to let Oscar go, the hiring of Luchi signifies a systematic change, not to mention the incorporation of the USL team. With Luchi, the success of the club will be determined by the direction Luchi takes the club and how well he leads the team in said direction.
There are two general paths that the club can go at with this new hire, both having positives and negatives. Both also have differing types of success, and both are supported by different people that support this club. In order to reach any type of success, the club and the fanbase must define what success means for FC Dallas in season one, two, and all the season that follow. Both have validity and both can work, but it is nearly impossible to do the two directions simultaneously, especially in the framework that the club is built in.
The first direction the club can (and probably) will be going in is based around incorporating the system to help build the first team. It is basically a continuation of promoting homegrowns, only that this season is the inaugural year of the USL team, which will probably help in regards to playing time for some academy kids. This system has been pretty successful for the club, especially with Papi at the forefront. Due to this system, the academy, directed by Luchi himself, has been the most successful academy in the USSDA since the beginning of the decade.
Success in this system is pretty straightforward. Luchi has stated that he was building off the system that Pareja left behind, and that he, as a student of Pareja, has some of the same ideals in the sport itself. The club, the Hunt Family, Papi, and Luchi have all stressed the importance of building a family that works together to achieve a common goal. That common goal for Pareja led to two trophies (the club before Papi was coach had one piece of silverware, dating back to 1997) and four playoff appearances in five years. If this system of sustainability were to continue, the club probably will have an off year in 2019 (maybe we sneak into the playoffs) with the vision of getting another trophy in year two or three. An example of the probable vision of the club under this direction would be Jesse Marsch’s New York Red Bulls, where he placed 4th in year one but was in the upper echelon of MLS the rest of his tenure in the league.
While this system sounds amazing in principal, the main flaw in it is its general success over the Papi tenure. Many will reference the inability of the club to get past the conferences finals as a reason why the club should ditch this philosophy of #PlayTheKids. I know many who have told me the frustration they have due to the fact that the club has been unable, or perhaps unwilling, to take that next step to MLS Cup glory. Basically, if it hasn’t worked for five years, why would a coach change this mantra in any way?
The other direction is a lot more unlikely. This possibility is the idea of building a winning team from the get-go and to target MLS Cup every single year, an idea that the club hasn’t had in it’s entire history. The only reason that I think the club might go on this direction is the language that Luchi had used in interviews and in the first press conference. Paraphrasing here, Luchi has stressed the importance of winning every single game, no matter the stadium the team was playing in that night. He also spoke on how it made him sad to see another team lift MLS Cup this year, something I have never heard a coach say in his introductory press conference in all my years of following the sport. These statements are the only “evidence” one can go off of to believe the club might be changing its direction with Luchi at the forefront.
This is an unlikely scenario, but the positive aspect of this direction is that success can be described in trophies instead of development. Most fans would take more trophies, even if it meant throwing away a project that took nearly half a decade to build. As one of the original teams without an MLS Cup on the trophy cabinet, one can understand the frustration of this fanbase surrounding the success of the club they bleed for every weekend.
The problem with this direction, not even mention it’s probably not going to happen due to what the HSG has shown it’s willing to invest in the club, is the instability. LA Galaxy is the perfect embodiment of this issue. The Galaxy are the most decorated team in this life history, so maybe our fanbase would take 5 MLS Cups. But the situation right now with the team is god awful. Because of the lack of investment in promoting academy kids through their pipeline into the first team, the team has lost out on players like Alex Mendez, a definite starter on 3/4’s of the teams in this league. Instead of giving an academy player like Mendez a professional contact, they gave bad MLS players like Servando Carrasco multiple starts. The team’s unstableness led to the insanely awful season they had in 2017 (2018 wasn’t so great, either), a season that most people did not think was possible for a dynasty team that is the Galaxy. If FC Dallas does go this route, they have to make sure they have a foundation to fall on in case things get sour, a foundation that the best team in league history (based on accolades) did not have.
Although choice A is more likely than choice B, this isn’t really a discussion on what direction is better. Like I said earlier, both have positives and negatives.
For what it’s worth, although unlikely, the club could, in theory, adopted both ideals. The club can be an MLS powerhouse while at the same time develop a player like Pepi and sell him of for millions. This is probably the direction that the Hunts have tried to create over the last couple of years.
The problem is that they haven’t been unable to embody what many call the Ajax system. Can it be done? Maybe. Will it be done? I don’t know. No one in this league has been able to do it successfully, and the club is dangerously betting if they think an inexperienced coach will take them in that direction.
The whole point that I’m trying to convey here is that the team probably needs to pick one. If you don’t pick a direction, or if you don’t clearly define said direction, you are most certainly going to be in contention of receiving the wooden spoon in 2019, and maybe in the future as well. The club also probably can’t go both directions with a coach that has never been in charge of coaching a team with grown men.
Both choices for me are fine. Many fans have a favorite, and that’s fine too. It’s really important, however, that we know what direction we are going in so we can strive for success with this new dynasty the club is building.
Featured image: Goal.com