FC Dallas Looks to Continue Their New Era
At the end of the 2021 season, FC Dallas was a mess. Then-head coach Luchi Gonzalez was fired in September after a 3-2 loss to rivals the Houston Dynamo and the club missed the playoffs as they sat at 11th place in the Western Conference table. In 34 games, Dallas only managed to win 7 matches. The state of the club left supporters frustrated and they raised their voice in protest. (For a full recap see: As FC Dallas Ends 2nd Worst Season in Their History, Fans Demand the Hunts to Sell or Invest (mlsnowpodcast.com)
After the disaster of 2021 and the outcry from fans, the Hunt family took a new, different approach to the 2022 season. With Luchi Gonzalez gone, they needed to hire a new head coach. Dallas liked to hire coaches who had a connection to either the club or the Hunt family. Luchi was hired after serving as a coach in FC Dallas' academy and Oscar Pareja, the coach before Luchi, also coached in the academy prior to becoming a head coach. Instead of hiring another academy coach, however, they brought in Nico Estevez.
Image: FC Dallas
Nico was an assistant coach for the United States Men's National Team. Unlike Luchi, he had some experience coaching professional adults and his stature with players in the USMNT pool meant that Dallas could now recruit a new type of player...
Image: FC Dallas
Dallas had a reputation for acquiring unknown players cheaply and hoping for the best. This strategy worked sometimes. Players like Michael Barrios, Fabian Castillo, and David Ferreira became fan-favorites and were key parts of some of Dallas' most entertaining seasons. Unfortunately, players of that caliber weren't common. Dallas also brought in several players whose careers in Dallas were either forgettable or just terrible, such as Getterson and Roland Lamah.
2022 saw a change from this method. FC Dallas bought USMNT winger Paul Arriola from DC United. At 26 years old, Arriola would be in the prime of career and his name was more familiar to those who followed the USMNT or MLS. Dallas wasn't known for acquiring a player like this, at least not in recent memory. They didn't stop there though...
Image: FC Dallas
In addition to Arriola, Dallas also brought in Argentinian wonderkid Alan Velasco. They reportedly spent a club record fee to bring him in from Independiente of Argentina. Velasco was just 19 years old when he was announced by FC Dallas. Despite his skills and the hefty fee, he was still going to be a "project" player.
There was a ton of excitement surrounding the announcement of Velasco. One diehard fan even jumped into a lake! Prior to the official announcement of Velasco, Collin Coovert had tweeted that he would jump into a lake if Dallas signed the Argentinian winger.
The incoming transfers didn't end in January though. During the summer transfer window, Dallas brought in a reinforcement for their midfield. Dallas hasn't had a great track record of midseason signings, at least in recent memory. Two recent, prior to 2022, examples would be when they brought in Edwin Gyasi via loan and Eric Alexander (who had played for FC Dallas before from 2010 to summer of 2011). Alexander, in his second run with Dallas, made no appearances. Gyasi, on the other hand, made 4 appearances is infamous for pretending to be injured so he could sub out.
Dallas' summer reinforcement in 2022 didn't follow the same path as Gyasi and Alexander. He made 10 appearances for Dallas, scoring 1 goal and recording 5 assists during that short stint. His name was already known around MLS and like Arriola was in the USMNT player pool. His name was Sebastian Lletget.
Lletget made an immediate impact for Dallas. He partnered with young homegrown Paxton Pomykal and helped to strengthen Dallas' midfield. Like Arriola and Velasco, his signing was an unusual one for this club. He was a much higher caliber of player than what they usually brought in, especially for the summer.
FC Dallas didn't only make improvements to the roster either. A long complaint from fans has been Dallas' lack of self-promotion. It wasn't common to find someone who knew that FC Dallas existed, most weren't aware that a professional soccer team was in Frisco, Texas. The metroplex has tons of electronic billboards that rotate through ads. It was pretty common to see ads for Dallas' NBA team the Dallas Mavericks when driving on the I-35.
That issue began to change as well. FC Dallas ads have been spotted on the rotating billboards now, usually advertising an upcoming game. Despite it currently being the offseason though, FC Dallas is still promoting themselves on the billboards, right now though the ads are for FC Dallas' new app. Their app allows fans to keep track of the club via club news, shows off the roster, and provides easy access to their MLS' online store.
They didn't stop advertising at the billboards though. FC Dallas hasn't had a strong presence in the actual city of Dallas. Just like the Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers, FC Dallas' home stadium resides in a nearby city rather than Dallas itself. FC Dallas wasn't known for reaching out in the City of Dallas, but they left their mark. Last year they debuted a massive sign in downtown Dallas. They also promoted their signing of Sebastian Lletget, as seen in the tweet a couple of paragraphs above. This year, they're continuing it with a new sign and a new slogan.
The sign features some of FC Dallas' biggest players. It gives people in Dallas a chance to familiarize themselves with the club and gives them some names to look out for. Jesus Ferreira, for example, was part of the USMNT roster that went to Qatar for the World Cup last winter. Alan Velasco is a promising prospect. Goalkeeper Maarten Paes became a core piece of Dallas' defense last season. Paul Arriola and Sebastian Lletget are both names that would be recognizable to fans of USMNT or MLS in general and both became key players in Dallas' success last season. Finally, Paxton Pomykal has been a fan-favorite for a while now and he recently earned a call-up to the USMNT's January camp.
FC Dallas' "new era" last season left many supporters excited for the club's future. The Hunt family can't hit the brakes yet though. They need to continuously to move forward. In just three years, the U.S will host the men's World Cup, alongside Mexico and Canda. Dallas was named as one of the host cities for the tournament. Now is the time to grow the brand within Texas.