DALLAS — The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the world has communicated and engaged with one another, and FC Dallas is just one of many teams that has altered the way it trains and interacts — from the coaching staff to the players.
FC Dallas goalkeeping coach Drew Keeshan entered his 13th season with the club in 2020, and due to the league suspension of play, he’s had to adjust the way his group of goalkeepers train on a day-to-day basis this year.
The three pillars he’s emphasized the most during the MLS suspension has been communication, interaction and engagement. The group that Keeshan oversees consists of Jesse Gonzalez, Jimmy Maurer and Kyle Zobeck — a trio that has grown and matured during their time at FC Dallas.
That maturity has been evident throughout the last few weeks. Not only is Keeshan giving the groups different training regiments and workouts. The others are also providing video exercises of their own that the rest of the group will participate in.
“So, Jimmy may send a warmup and all of us will do the warmup, it may be Kyle’s turn to send a footwork and handling exercise and it may be Jesse’s turn to do the fitness element at the end,” Keeshan said.
Drew Keeshan addresses his goalkeepers during training in the 2019 season
Keeshan is keeping the trio physically prepared for the eventual return of league play, and he’s also used this time to reanalyze the top goalkeepers in the world for certain characteristics or traits they have. They analyze the internal characteristics that help them be successful, and they use those to try and improve upon their respective games.
“The level of engagement and involvement from the guys during those sessions has been incredible,” Keeshan said. “I’ll send them a PowerPoint presentation of, say, a phase of play from Barcelona involving Ter Stegen and his distribution. Some of our meetings have gone over 90 minutes. There is that much interaction and feedback from the guys. That’s been very impressive and, hopefully, once we get back on the field, [we can further develop] those ideas that we’ve talked about.”
The goalkeepers’ interactions aren’t contained to just their group. At a time where Zoom meetings have been the norm around the world, Keeshan and his players have used this tool to interact with other goalkeepers and coaches within the Academy.
Gonzalez, Maurer and Zobeck shared their stories to becoming professionals. Each player had a different path to FC Dallas. Gonzalez came up through the Academy and signed a Homegrown contract in 2013. Maurer spent five seasons with NASL’s New York Cosmos and one other with Chilean club, Universidad de Concepción. Zobeck also played for the Cosmos before coming to FC Dallas.
Different experiences provide additional insights, and each one was able to share their stories with young players looking to fulfill their dreams of playing professional soccer one day.
“We wanted our Academy goalkeepers to know that we are thinking about them and are here for them,” Keeshan said. “That’s truly what this club is about. It’s a family.”
“Leading on from that, I want to stay connected with the Academy goalkeepers until they get back on the field as well.”
Zoom meetings between Keeshan and the three goalkeepers has provided the group with an extra opportunity to engage with one another while improving their mentalities. Talking about the game helps the group disconnect for a little bit from everything that is going on in the world and also gives them a mental break.
One of Keeshan’s goals during this period has been to challenge his players, so the trainings don’t become too monotonous. The challenge of their engagement with each other is coming up with ideas to change things up.
Keeshan with Jimmy Maurer during a training session
“I’ve been so impressed with their professional approach to a really difficult situation,” Keeshan said. “During this period, to be doing the things they’ve been doing to stay prepared, that for me has been incredible. I’m always proud of these guys, but just seeing what they’re going through and how they’re approaching it has been fantastic.”
Soccer is going to return one day, and eventually, the players will be able to get back on the field together. But in order for that transition to be as smooth as possible, the team has to stay engaged and connected with one another.
“The better we can prepare ourselves right now, the better we’ll be when we get back together,” Keeshan said.