FRISCO – With FC Dallas’ 2019 season in the books, it’s time to appreciate one of its most consistent performers over the year.
Homegrown goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez enjoyed standout campaign which saw his maturation into one of MLS’ best ‘keepers. The 24-year-old shot-stopper had career highs in starts (32), saves (85), penalty saves (2) and wins (11). Also, his eight shutouts were just one short of his career-best of nine from 2017.
“I think I matured more throughout the season and that’s something that really helped me this year,” Gonzalez said. “I think overall we were taking care of business on and off the field and that helped me a lot.”
Perhaps the most noticeable improvement in Gonzalez’s game was his confidence with the ball at his feet.
With head coach Luchi Gonzalez at the helm, goalkeepers and defenders are expected to pass out of the back to relieve pressure and build attacks. While it was somewhat of a new concept for Gonzalez, he jumped at the opportunity and established himself as a comfortable ball-playing ‘keeper. At 80%, Gonzalez had the highest passing accuracy of any goalkeeper in MLS in 2019 (minimum five appearances).
“I think I improved with my feet,” Gonzalez said. “That’s an aspect that we wanted to work on this year. I think (goalkeeper coach) Drew Keeshan did a great job on that. It wasn’t easy, it’s not an easy task, but I think the coaches made me feel like I could play with feet.”
Gonzalez is right, passing out of the back isn’t easy. It’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy and any mistakes or giveaways are often punished with goals. Implementing such a system relies on all the players buying in and being unafraid of making errors, and that’s exactly what Gonzalez did.
“He has courage,” Luchi said of his goalkeeper. “For me, that is the most important characteristic. In order to play the way that we are developing, you need to have courage. He has that and he's not afraid.”
While Gonzalez was undoubtedly a standout performer who blossomed in 2019, his coach believes he can improve even further in the next campaign.
“He has good instincts and reading the game, and he's showing growth,” Luchi added. “The expectation is for him to take it to another level this next year. We don’t expect grand steps or skipping steps, but we expect him to take the next step.”
“I just gotta keep working and pushing myself,” Gonzalez concluded. “I can’t get too comfortable; I need to remain humble and keep working. That’s all I can do.”