After two and a half seasons at the helm of FC Dallas, Nico Estevez and the club parted ways on Sunday night.

Let’s look at where the Burn go from here in 2024.

On Saturday night, FC Dallas played a massively short-handed Minnesota United side, missing 10 players due to injuries and international call-ups, and they seemed content to take a 1-1 draw. This kind of mentality and attitude on the road was commonplace under Nico Estevez, who appeared to have a goal to have every game finish 1-0 and, if that didn’t happen on the road, was happy to take a point back to Frisco. But this game was apparently the last straw for Dan and Clark Hunt and the FCD front office, as less than 24 hours after the end of the game in Minnesota, the announcement was made that Estevez’s time as the manager of FC Dallas was over after 2 and a half seasons.

Estevez lasted just a little bit less time than his predecessor, Luchi Gonzalez, and, like Gonzalez, the team regressed over time. Estevez oversaw a hugely successful 2022 season that saw Dallas go from one of the worst teams in the league in 2021 to a 3rd place finish in the Western Conference in 2022. Strong form from players like Jesus Ferreira, Paul Arriola, and Sebastian Lletget carried Dallas to those heights in 2022, and there were strong signs that players like Alan Velasco and Paxton Pomykal were establishing themselves as pieces to build around in the future.

But Estevez’s tactic was always extremely defensive-focused. This made sense; he was tasked to “fix the defense” after Dallas had one of the leakiest defenses in club history in 2021. However, as time went on, players who stood out in 2022 lost form, and the great injury luck the team had in 2022 ran out quickly in 2023 and 2024. Unfortunately, Estevez just didn’t seem to have the answers to these issues and questions. In 2023, the team continued to be strong defensively but struggled mightily to score goals and only just barely snuck into the playoffs. In the offseason, the club made a record move to sign Petar Musa, and pundits were bullish on FCD, with many picking them to finish in the top half of the Western Conference.

However, the wheels quite simply fell off as the 2024 season opened up. Long-term injuries to Alan Velasco and Geovane Jesus hurt the team’s top-end quality from the get-go, and Paxton Pomykal joined them early in the season, creating a huge issue in midfield. Jesus Ferreira has not been able to stay healthy regularly and hasn’t come close to finding his pre-2023 Gold Cup form, and Paul Arriola and Sebastian Lletget’s form has not recovered to anywhere near their 2022 levels. All this was compounded by the confusing decision by Estevez to move the team from their base 4-3-3 tactical shape that was preferred not only by Estevez in 2022 and 2023 but also by Luchi Gonzalez from 2019 through 2021 (and was also not far off from Oscar Pareja’s preferred 4-2-3-1 before that) into the trendy 3-4-2-1, most notably used by Wilfried Nancy’s Columbus Crew to great effect in MLS.

The change made, at least in theory, some sense.

The idea seemed to be to maintain the defensive strength of the team by adding a third central defender while also pushing more numbers forward in attack with attacking wingbacks and allowing Jesus Ferreira to play off of Petar Musa as more of a free-roaming number 10/second forward. This would also, in theory, suit Alan Velasco and Geovane Jesus once they returned from their injuries. In midfield, the industry and effort of Pomykal would pair with the intelligence of Asier Illaramendi, and Dallas would have reliable defenders like Nkosi Tafari and Sebastien Ibeagha continuing to protect the steady gloves of Maarten Paes.

But none of it has worked. The free-flowing attacking style of Nancy’s Crew is nowhere to be seen as Dallas’ rigid, defensive style under Estevez continued. Dante Sealy had a surprisingly positive preseason but was unable to turn that into success in the regular season, as he was routinely caught out defensively. The roster, clearly not built for the 3-4-3, was not really reinforced beyond the signing of Musa, with only Omar Gonzalez and Patrickson Delgado, depth pieces at best, coming in along with the Croatian forward. Pomykal’s injury has forced Liam Fraser into a regular starting position, and the team simply has not found any answers in the positions underneath Musa, with a long list of players failing to generate enough offense there.

With 16 games played and Dallas just barely trending better than the infamous 2003 Dallas Burn team, which holds the worst record in club history, the Hunts finally decided they had seen enough. Long-time assistant and former FCD player Peter Luccin will step into the interim role while the club searches for its next permanent manager.

Luccin has a number of questions to answer: Does he revert to the back 4 or try to make some tweaks to the system Dallas has used all throughout 2024? Do some players who have been given few opportunities get more chances?

Can he get the team to generate more chances, and if so, does it come at the cost of conceding more on the other end?

Luccin is in a unique spot as interim coaches often get an opportunity to basically make their case to become the permanent manager, but no interim coach in FCD history has come into the position so early in the season with no clear plan in place for the next manager (Marco Ferruzzi took the interim position relatively early in 2008, but the Hunts basically had Schellas Hyndman lined up at that point).

If Luccin can get some results, he might give himself a real shot at the position in the long term, especially since the Hunts love to hire from within. Beyond just the slate of MLS games, Luccin will likely still be in charge for Dallas’ Open Cup quarterfinal matchup against Sporting KC in early July, giving him a chance to put Dallas into the semi-finals.

Regardless of what happens, the next few weeks and matchdays will be very, very interesting to watch.

What are your thoughts on FCD’s decision to part ways with Nico Estevez?


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