Last Friday, FC Dallas president Dan Hunt, technical manager Andre Zanotta and head coach Nico Estevez held a press conference to open the 2023 season. This week, we’ll look at three big takeaways from the comments made at the press conference.
1) Last year doesn’t matter
“Every single season is a new experience. Nothing that you did in the past is going to help you to success.”
These were head coach Nico Estevez’s words within the first 5 minutes in the press conference and it was a theme of a number of his comments throughout the press conference. Estevez, despite entering only his second season as an MLS head coach, has plenty of experience within in the league, previously working as an assistant under Gregg Berhalter in Columbus prior to each of them moving to the USMNT. MLS is a topsy turvy league, with teams regularly making huge swings in performance and standing in the league from one season to the next, as Dallas did from 2021 to 2022, and, on the flip side of that, as the New England Revolution did in the inverse, going from Supporters’ Shield winners in 2021 to missing the playoffs entirely in 2022.
With that said, Nico and his staff understand that, despite their massive success in 2022 and being “ahead of schedule” (as Dan Hunt has said a number of times), success in 2022 does not equal success in 2023. Although the team, of course, wants to build upon what they laid out in 2022, ultimately, what happened last year is irrelevant in 2023. It is a new season and although everyone is obviously positive about the team going into 2023, there is no complacency or resting on their laurels happening within the club.
There is evidence of the lack of complacency in how the team will approach the preseason. After spending a couple weeks in Frisco, FCD will travel to Marbella in Spain for the bulk of preseason, getting out of their comfort zone and challenging themselves in friendlies against teams they are unfamiliar with. The brain trust seems extremely bullish and excited about this opportunity and the impact it will have on the club and it will be interesting to see how FCD starts the 2023 season.
2) Team building is not complete
“We are ambitious here and we want to take higher steps for this club.”
That was Andre Zanotta in his opening remarks in the press conference, talking broadly about how the club wanted to move forward into 2023. Part of his comments also mentioned the termination of Franco Jara’s contract and what that opened up for the club in terms of flexibility with the roster going forward with the open DP slot and international spot. It is clear that Zanotta and his staff are still actively looking to make further moves in the market, beyond what they’ve already done in bringing in Sebastien Ibeagha, Geovane Jesus, Amet Korca, Tarik Scott and Nolan Norris.
With the now open DP slot, what remains to be seen is how quickly the club will move to fill that spot. It seems obvious that it will be filled at some point in 2023 but the question is whether that happens during this preseason or over the summer when a lot of options open up with the European season ending. There is still a clear need for another center back with only 4 currently on the roster, though FCD may be loathe to use a DP slot on a center back, possibly looking more toward midfield, whether that is a defensive midfielder or another attacking midfielder to compete with and spell Paxton Pomykal and Sebastian Lletget. Either way, this is clearly a spot to keep your eye on throughout the preseason and possibly throughout the regular season as well.
3) Better relationship with North Texas SC
“Take the identity and style of play that we have implemented in the first team and start doing that in the second team.”
That was Nico Estevez speaking about new North Texas SC head coach Javier Cano, recently hired from Austin FC’s academy. By the end of 2022, it was an open secret that Estevez and previous NTSC coach Pa-Modou Kah did not see eye to eye in their managerial style or even the way they wanted to play, leading to a disconnect between the first and second teams at the club, not ideal to say the least. But the hiring of Cano seems to be a move to ensure that the second team is entirely in sync with the first team. Cano, like Estevez, is a Spaniard and has known Estevez for a number of years, dating back to a meeting in DC when Cano was an assistant with DC United and Estevez was on Berhalter’s national team staff. Estevez has made comments about wanting the FCD squad to be “smaller” in 2023, meaning that players near the bottom of the roster will need to find other spots to play, whether that is on loan or with North Texas SC. If it is the latter, it is apparent that FCD and NTSC will be much more in sync in 2023 than they were in 2022.
What are your thoughts on FCD as the 2023 season opens up? Let me know in the comments below!
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