Luchi Gonzalez FC Dallas
Daniel Robertson/FC Dallas

Under-18 Academy coach Luchi Gonzalez excited for start of Academy preseason

FRISCO, Texas -- While it seems like just yesterday that the FC Dallas Stadium Complex was hosting teams from all over the country in the June U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs, preparations have once again started for the 2013-2014 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season.

This year adds a new under-14 team to the nationwide competition and for FC Dallas, preseason training started on Monday, August 19 as the under-18 and under-16 squads prepare for season-opening games on September 28 while Francisco Molina’s under-14 squad starts on September 7.

For second-year U-18 coach Luchi Gonzalez, his new team features a boatload of players coming up from the U-16s, who narrowly missed out on a trip to USSDA Finals Week. Of the current 22-man roster, 15 of the players featured for the U-16 team last year, a fact that Gonzalez sees as a positive.

READ: FCD U-18 players reflect on US Soccer combine

“It’s very exciting as a coach and especially since I was able to be a part of their group last year as an assistant working with Josema [Bazan] and seeing those kids grow and develop, seeing them compete, suffer and seeing them bounce back and be successful,” said Gonzalez.

Players coming up to the U-18s include forward Santiago Agudelo, who finished second in the nation with 24 goals from 27 matches, including goals in all three USSDA Playoff games. Defenders Jordan Cano, Vernon Bailey and Wake Forest-bound Kris Reaves along with Homegrown goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez will lead a stout back line while second-year FCD midfielder Ethan Sonis barks out orders in central midfield.

“It’s a great group that we were able to retain a lot of players from that U-16 group and we’ll be top-heavy with 96’s which isn’t typical from the U-18 age group(players born 1995 and younger are eligible), so I think to us it’s an advantage,” said Gonzalez about his young squad. “Maybe physically they’ll have to adapt to the U-18s, but after a couple months the game will take over and they can apply themselves with how we play soccer.”

Still early in preseason, the coaching staff is leading the team in preliminary training sessions with two-a-days beginning on August 26 and preseason games against local colleges and men’s league teams scheduled for each of the following Saturdays leading up to the September 28 season opener at local rivals Solar Chelsea SC.

READ: Homegrown signing Kellyn Acosta chats with the fans on Facebook before Saturday's game vs San Jose

“We just finished our first week and we’re going to do some testing with the first team staff for agility and speed, which is always a great environment,” said Gonzalez. “We had some of the pro guys train with us this week like Peter Luccin, which I thought was a great experience for our guys.”

“Going into the second week now, we’re going to focus on a little more tactical things, but it’s more about getting a fitness base, getting touches on the ball, socially getting together and playing with each other. We’ve got five weeks before our first game, so we’re going to have a true preseason. We’re excited about that. We’re going to have exhibitions coming up and every week we’ve got an objective to complete to help us be prepared for game one.”