TUCSON, Ariz. - Just two weeks before his first season at the helm of FC Dallas, Luchi Gonzalez’s career came full circle with the very man who introduced him to the city 20 years ago.
Following a 2-1 win against Seattle in the main stadium in Tucson, the rest of FCD’s roster took to the field for a scrimmage against Grand Canyon University. The man in charge of Arizona’s only D-I soccer program is none other than Schellas Hyndman, Gonzalez’s head coach during his time at SMU and the former FC Dallas head coach who helped bring the him to the club back in 2012.
“That was special. Coach is a father figure to me, as well as other mentors that I have, but I have a strong connection with him. He taught me a lot about how to be a proper young man, not just a soccer player, but a young man that needs to work hard for his family and friends in this world,” Gonzalez said. “Even when I wasn’t playing anymore, he gave me the support as a coach and empowered me come into the Academy and help the program take its next steps.”
As a teenager in Hialeah, Florida, Gonzalez has openly admitted that he had no idea even where Dallas was until he got a call from Hyndman. Nearing a commitment to play at UNC, SMU's head man convinced the young forward to at least come on a visit, not leaving one of the prospect’s limited number of expenses-paid campus visits on the table. Four years later, Gonzalez won the Hermann Award as the nation’s top player in a city he considered home.
“It’s something that there are really no words for. I can say it’s great, but that’s too small of a word. No words. It’s a fantastic feeling to see how well he’s developed,” Hyndman said after the match. “He was fantastic, probably one of the best players to ever play at SMU and to see him now in this position as a manager, I think is fantastic.”
Near the end Hyndman’s six-season tenure with FC Dallas, his then-Academy Director Oscar Pareja took an MLS head coaching job in Colorado prior to the 2013 campaign. The departure opened the door for Hyndman, along with former Technical Director Fernando Clavijo, to set their sights on a young coach out of Florida as his replacement. The now-GCU head coach says that it was only a matter of time before history repeated itself with a Dallas Academy Director making the jump to the MLS ranks - one way or another.
“I hoped one day it would transfer into an opportunity like this,” Hyndman said of what he saw in Gonzalez the coach back in 2012. “I knew what we would get out of him - a man that is passionate about the game and a guy that is constantly learning. He would come to first team training, he took a course overseas with the French federation, he’s very humble and he works hard. Dallas is very fortunate to have him because if they didn’t, I think another MLS club would’ve.”