FRISCO - In his introductory press conference as FC Dallas’ head coach, Luchi Gonzalez said his tenure as a head coach was going to be a continuation of the project started five years ago by then-Technical Director Fernando Clavijo and his predecessor, Oscar Pareja. In filling out his coaching staff for the 2019 season, Gonzalez has taken Pareja’s lead and promoted from within and with those he worked closest with during his time with the FCD Academy.
In 2014, Josema Bazan was hand-selected by Pareja from the Academy - serving as the U-18 head coach, a team Gonzalez in-turn took over in his first season with the club. Marco Ferruzzi was already a pro assistant when Pareja started but came from similar roots in the youth club and the Academy in Frisco. Drew Keeshan didn’t come up through the FCD system but still holds roots coaching at the youth level in Georgia before joining the club.
For Gonzalez’s inaugural season, he’s turned to two of the brightest minds coaching the next generation of FCD talent, Peter Luccin and Mikey Varas, and one holdover, Keeshan, from Pareja’s tenure. In his mind, all three fall directly in line with the club’s model and are passionate about the FCD way.
Likely the most decorated players to dress in FC Dallas colors over the last six years, Peter Luccin made Frisco his home after retiring in late 2014 and has coached some of the youngest age groups in the Academy since. He’s also spent time over the last year working at first-team trainings on a volunteer basis in the mornings before coaching his Academy teams later in the afternoons.
“Obviously Peter is well-respected as a world-class player playing overseas in some of the top leagues in Europe,” Gonzalez said. “He’s played in Champions League, played under some fantastic coaches and played alongside, with and against the top players in the world.”
Luccin’s vast experience will prove crucial in understanding, relating to and guiding the wide array of players in FCD’s locker room - ranging from 16-year-old debutants to 32-year-old global veterans of the game.
“He is an expert of having lived the game at the highest level as a player and now he can model that and share his experience and guide the individuals and the groups on and off the field based on his experience,” the head coach added. “He is in line with our philosophy of the game and our style. He's in line with the way we want to play, how we want to train and the culture we want to maintain in the locker room and on the field.”
“It’s very important the way you manage a locker room. It’s important to have planning and periodization and all that stuff but the way you manage a locker room is fundamental first,” Luccin said of what he learned from coaches in his extensive career as a player. “I love to analyze our players and the opponents. I like the tactical discussions but the locker room is going to be very important and I think I can help in that aspect.”
The youngest members of one of the youngest staffs in MLS, Varas’ coaching career has been one with a quick ascent through the ranks of American soccer.
A native of California, his father is of Chilean descent and at a young age exposed Varas to playing internationally with clubs throughout his home country. After graduating college, Varas became a student of coaching with clubs in Chile, Argentina and Spain before embarking on his own career in California. He coached youth clubs on the West Coast before spending a year in the Sacramento Republic FC Academy, earning USSDA West Conference Coach of the Year honors. He joined FCD in 2017 and has coached some of the top talent with the U-16s and U-17s over the last two seasons, including North Texas SC signee Ricardo Pepi.
“In a 5-10-minute conversation you'll quickly see he's wise beyond his years. He's been studying technical and tactical methodology, planning and periodization of techniques and tactics since the moment he graduated college,” Gonzalez said of the 36-year-old. “He has a background that will allow us to be very structured in our planning.
“He's very important in creating a framework of how we're going to train, how we're going to implement concepts and how we're going to approach training and games in the mesocycles and macrocycles [of the season]. That's where, for me, he has a high level of expertise that I respect.”
Just 18 months into his FCD tenure, Varas has felt at home with the diversity and culture of the club since day one.
“One of the first things I noticed is the competitive culture of the city and the club and that's something that I really buy into. It's completely aligned with who I am as a person. I've really enjoyed it,” he said. “I have that exciting feeling of adrenaline that the last 12 years, and honestly my whole life, has been preparing me for this.”
Among the fresh faces in FCD’s room this season will be the veteran Keeshan, heading into his 12th season as Dallas’ goalkeeping coach. With so many
“I was very clear with Drew, even before I interviewed, that if given the opportunity I would love to continue in his current role and build on it, to continue to grow and challenge himself,” Gonzalez said. “I think Drew is very valuable because of his years in the league and his experience vs. the other clubs, whether we're home or away, the other stadiums, the other players, the other coaches, the nuances of the league and the travel.”
Having worked under the club’s three previous head coaches, the Ireland native has played crucial roles developing young talent like Jesse Gonzalez and Richard Sanchez since, as well as MLS veterans Sean Johnson and Joe Bendik dating back to his days as a youth coach in Georgia.
“Drew has much more value than just being our goalkeeper coach,” Gonzalez said. “He's one of the technical members that is going to give a lot of insight to things other than just goalkeeping. That's the way we value him, and I think he's going to be really important.”